Southern Tier - San Diego to Atlanta

 

Fall 2004

 

Denis Kertz, ©2004

 

Day 11: Thu, Oct 7, 2004 - Williams, AZ to Mormon Lake, AZ [76.3, 6:07:43, 12.4, 33.4]

It was a chilly 32 degrees when I got up so I packed up quickly and rode the mile to town.At my now favorite breakfast place in Williams, I had 2 buttermilk pancakes and they were good again.The only bad thing was there was a different waitress and she had only one speed Ė slow.It didnít matter how many folks were waiting; she just ambled along.She also seemed to avoid eye contact lest a customer might try to get her attention.By contrast, yesterdayís waitress was a model of efficiency.

 

I left town about 8:30 and headed toward the interstate, the only way to get to Flagstaff.It was 32 miles to Flagstaff but the route wasnít bad, climbing to 7,300 feet and descending back to 7,000.Normally interstates have good shoulders but these shoulders were cracked and the worst interstates shoulders I had ever ridden on.The other bad thing about interstate shoulders is they can have a fair amount of debris and I picked up another souvenir, a thin piece of wire that flatted my rear tire again.This time it happened a mile from a rest area so I was able to pump up the slow leak and ride to the rest area.There I found a piece of wire still stuck in my tire.

 

After repairing the tire, I decided to repack my front panniers in an attempt to eliminate my front wheel wobble.I just switched a water filter and some tools, making my left pannier slightly heavier although they both felt about the same weight.When I resumed riding my wobble seemed greatly reduced.

 

I rode historic US 66 into Flagstaff and found my way to the library where I had to pay $3 to access email for 30 minutes, the only library payment for the whole trip.Then I stopped by a bike shop to replace a water bottle that had a leak.Nearby was a Subway so I ate at a Subway for the first time on the trip.I ordered a foot long sandwich, ate half, and saved the other half for later.

 

My dayís destination was Mormon Lake on Lake May Road.I had to get on I17 for a short distance so I followed I17 signs out of town.According to my map I needed the first exit after I got on I17 but the first exit was another destination.So I looped back and found the exit that looked like it wasnít accessible heading south.

 

Lake Mary Road started out as a 4-lane but shortly changed to a 2-lane with a good shoulder, designated for bicycles.I rode through some nice scenery of pine forests and a long narrow meadow.At some point the meadow was dammed, producing Lake Mary, a long thin reservoir.I stopped at a picnic area for a break to enjoy the view.

 

Riding on a few more miles with some modest climbing I came upon a wide open meadow that was right about where I expected Mormon Lake to be.There was a turnout and looking back from there was a great view of the San Francisco Mountains looking back towards Flagstaff.I rode around the east side of the meadow and up a short hill and found the turnoff to Mormon Lake Village.I had expected just a campground but the campground was in an RV Park in the village that claimed a population of 50 to 5,000, depending on the time of the year.There I learned what I suspected, the meadow was the lake.Supposedly, Mormon Lake is the largest natural lake in Arizona, except when itís dry.

 

The campground office was closed for the day so I was told in the bar to pay in the morning when the office opened at 8:00.The rate was $8 which I thought was pretty good, until I learned showers cost $2, requiring 8 quarters, which almost no one would happen to carry around.I only had 4 quarters but I got bailed out by some Mexican workers who showed up at the same time for their showers.So I was able to get 4 more quarters and a shower.

 

After eating the remainder of my Subway sandwich and some other food, I walked to the bar for a beer and to write my notes.I found the small grocery store next door was still open so I got some milk for breakfast in the morning.

Day 12: Fri, Oct 8, 2004 - Mormon Lake, AZ to Payson, AZ [73.5, 6:10:02, 11.9, 40.5]

I wasnít in a hurry to get going since I had to pay my camp fee of $8 and the office didnít open until 8:00.It was 34 degrees when I got up and the milk I bought the night before was ready for breakfast.

 

After thinking about my front wheel wobble some more I thought back to the fact I had installed a new Arkel mounting system.I realized the hooks were further apart than previously, which meant I couldnít position the panniers as far back as I used to.However, the Arkel hooks were on a sliding channel and were adjustable.So I moved the rear hooks forward so I could position the panniers further back like I used to have them.

 

At 8:00 I stopped at the office and paid my camp fee and left Mormon Lake, still looking for the lake.The road had a couple of fair climbs on the way to Happy Jack as it passed through pine forest with an occasional open field.Riding was fine on the road with a nice shoulder and little traffic.After 17 miles I rode by Happy Jack, apparently just a forest station.That was followed by a significant descent of about 800 feet which didnít last long and then it was up and down riding.

 

About 10:45 I saw the Happy Jack Lodge that had a restaurant so I decided to have a 2nd, late breakfast of pancakes and coffee that, surprisingly, was a little less than $5.I expected it to be more expensive than normal since this was a resort lodge but it turned out to be the least expensive so far.The waiter and cashier also turned out to be friendly and helpful about the next few days of riding to Springerville.

 

Rejuvenated, I continued and came to Clintís Well and the end of Lake Mary Road in a mile.I turned right on 87 to go south to Payson.However, 87 was not a very good cycling road with essentially a non-existent shoulder and pretty high-speed traffic.Fortunately, there wasnít a lot of traffic and thus not much simultaneous 2-way traffic to squeeze me.

 

Earlier I had found my pannier adjustment had worked well but now I started getting some more wobble.It was almost as if my bike had gotten tired and was unable to hold itís line as well.

 

After some initial climbing on 87 I began a major descent of 2,600 feet that I would have enjoyed more if I hadnít known I would have to reclaim that altitude tomorrow.The descent was a winding one and a steep 6% according to some truck warning signs.During the winding descent there were occasional peeks through the hills of the mountains in the distance.On a bicycle I had the luxury of being able to stop almost anywhere and capture these great views on photos.

 

What was not so nice was a significant increase in traffic in the mid-afternoon.I attributed this to a Friday afternoon rush by folks to get to weekend destinations.It got somewhat unnerving to have packs of vehicles zoom by even though none were particularly threatening.

 

After the first long descent I stopped in the small town of Strawberry for a drink. When I continued I climbed a little and then descended another 3 miles to Pine, another small town that I passed through.This was followed by another climb and then some more descending.Then a final climb brought me to Payson.

 

Just outside Payson I saw a turnoff for the Houston Mesa campground but continued a few miles to scout the town.The 4-lane road through town turned out to be a zoo on a Friday afternoon.I continued until I saw a Tourist Information sign where I stopped.However, the lady there was not very helpful and seemed to have no idea how being on a bicycle could affect travel.I did learn that $60 was the cheapest motel I could expect.Although I had some doubts $60 was really the least expensive, it made my camping decision easy.Having gotten no useful camping information I decided to head back to the campground turnoff I saw earlier.On the way I stopped at a Subway for a foot long sandwich for dinner.

 

The campground was just off the road and not crowded/full as I feared it might be on a nice Friday.I was also surprised to see the USFS camp had showers so I made my way to the showers after setting up but showers required 4 quarters and I only had one.But I had just seen the campground hostess tooling around on a golf cart so I located her and held her up for 4 quarters and enjoyed my 2nd shower in 2 days.The tent site itself cost $15 so camping wasnít any great bargain except in comparison to a motel.

Day 13: Sat, Oct 9, 2004 - Payson, AZ to Heber, AZ [67.5, 6:24:45, 10.5, 34.6]

I packed up and headed to town with a temperature of 41, stopping at a foodmart for milk for the last of my granola stash.I continued into town and turned onto 260 east and stopped at a grocery store there.Of course, the groceries added more weight for the dayís climb so maybe grocery shopping wasnít the smartest move.

 

Just down the road was a cafť where I stopped for breakfast but I just had a bowl of oatmeal and coffee.When I left it was about 8:40 but I wasnít in a great hurry with the looming climb ahead.But first I had to descend a couple hundred feet to Star Valley.I also learned I would be sharing the road with a lot of traffic on a road with a virtually non-existent shoulder.260 was a major east-west route and everybody seemed on it.Traffic was unusually bunched up which just increased the likelihood of simultaneous traffic.All I could do was toe the white line and hope everybody else toed their line too.

 

Although the early route climbed it also seemed at times the climbing wasnít bad.In 15 miles I reached Kohls Ranch and considered stopping for a break but I didnít need one so I passed on.Shortly, there was major construction underway to replace a section of winding road.Then the road was mostly 4-lane to the Mongollon Rim and that was much better.In a few miles I passed Christopher Creek campground that was marked FULL.There were 2 more campgrounds and I stopped at the last one for a break as I knew the big climb to the Rim had to be near.

 

When I resumed riding I saw 5 ĎWatch for Elkí signs within a half mile so I guessed this was elk country.Numerous other warnings signs the rest of the day confirmed that but I saw no elk in the middle of the day.

 

In a short while I saw the road etched in the side of the Rim and I knew I was about to start the real climb.The climb turned out to be 5 miles at a 5 mph pace.There were some great views of the mountains to the south on the climb so I had some good excuses to stop and take photos.At the top of the climb there was a Mongollon Rim Visitor Center but it was apparently closed for the season.In any event I stopped for a break after about 3,000 feet of climbing for the day.

 

The rest of the way to Heber was about a 1,000 foot descent so it was pretty easy.However, the 4-lane road narrowed to a 2-lane road at the Rim top and I was once again riding on a shoulder varying from a one foot shoulder to a non-existent shoulder.Along the way I encountered my first jerk of the trip, a trailer truck driver who insisted on 2 long blasts of his horn just as he was overtaking me.Then a short while later another trailer truck driver brushed by me within a couple feet on a 4-lane section where he surely could have eased over a bit.However, I wasnít sure if he was being a jerk or just careless.In contrast to these two drivers, most truck drivers were very courteous, often switching over to the other lane of a 4-lane road even though it wasnít necessary.

 

A few miles after cresting the Rim I stopped for a cold drink break in Forest Estates and then cruised downhill into Heber, my intended destination.I thought my state map showed camping in/near Heber but I didnít find anything.I stopped at a fish & chips place around 3:00 for food.The lady there didnít really know about camping but another customer familiar with the area gave me some suggestions.Ted was from Phoenix and on a weekend camping trip.He suggested heading down the road several miles to a fire station and getting more information there.He also suggested I could just pull over and camp in the national forest service but warned that some areas had been burned in a large fire a few years ago.

 

After he left I chatted with the cook and then decided to take my chances down the road, leaving at 4:00.No one was around the fire station in a few miles but there was a VFW next door so I inquired there.I got Tedís suggestion again to just head down the road and pull over.So I rode another 10 miles and turned off on a service road where I picked a spot and settled for the night.

Day 14: Sun, Oct 10, 2004 - Heber, AZ to Springerville, AZ [78.7, 7:04:23, 11.1, 35]

I used powdered milk for the first time on this trip as I ate in my tent.After packing up I was on the road shortly after 7:00 on a cool morning of 41 degrees with a rarity Ė clouds in the sky.

 

Interestingly, there was a nice shoulder but I still didnít need it because there was little traffic on a Sunday morning.The pine tree forest eventually gave some ground and ranches began to appear.After about 21 miles I rode past the Show Low city limits sign but it was several miles before the city showed up.I rode through town looking for a breakfast place, ignoring the JB for something with character.Down the street a pizza place was lined with cars and a local confirmed this was a good breakfast place.It was as I had good pancakes and coffee for less than $5.I didnít get any help with the weather forecast but I did get my water bottles filled.

 

So shortly after 11:00 I took off for Springerville, 50 miles away.As I left I had a wide shoulder but someone had the bright idea of putting rumble strips right in the middle so I had little shoulder to work with.Tall pine trees gave way to 8-10 feet evergreen shrubs that grew shorter along the way.Some serious clouds developed to the south and before long I could see it was raining in the hills to my right.When I felt a few drops I pulled off under a large tree to see what would develop.The light drizzle stopped and I resumed riding although the clouds overhead and to the south were not encouraging.And a few minutes later I heard some thunder rumbling.The clouds seemed to be hovering over me but the worst part eventually moved to the northeast where I saw occasional lightning.

 

In the mean time the scenery changed dramatically to wide open land with a smattering of evergreen shrubs.I descended into a big valley and started the longest climb of the day, climbing close to 1,000 feet mostly on a 2.5 mile climb.That was followed by a 400 foot descent and then a rolling ride through picturesque wide open undulating hills.

 

When I left Show Low I had to decide whether to take 60 or 260 to Springerville.From locals it seemed 260 was more scenic but 60 was more direct and I chose it in light of the potential bad weather.Now with the scenic views over the last 25 miles I was glad I had chosen this route and I took numerous photos.However, the weather remained a concern.The ominous clouds were filling the sky and I hoped I had not spent too much time stopping and admiring the scenery.After one last moderate climb I descended into Springerville around 4:00, a town of 2,000 in an area known as Round Valley and headquarters to the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.I rode through town checking out motels, figuring this might be a motel night.This decision was cemented as I saw a couple lightning strikes just north of town.

 

I stopped at the motel that advertised $30 but the proprietor said they were full and warned rooms were in short supply.I checked with the motel he recommended and managed to get a room for $7 more.The receptionist said it had been raining all day so I considered myself fortunate to have only had a few sprinkles.

 

After cleaning up I noted it was raining.So I ordered out for pizza and had a good medium thick crust pepperoni pizza.Then I checked my favorite TV channel and saw a mixed report for tomorrow although the report was for Show Low, 50 miles away.

Day 15: Mon, Oct 11, 2004 - Springerville, AZ to Alpine, NM [30.4, 3:34:42, 8.5, 34.7]

Around 3:00 I woke up and realized I had forgotten to charge my AA batteries for my camera.My camera used 2 AA batteries efficiently and I had 4 sets but the batteries lost their charges even when unused so it was important to charge them weekly.So I set up my charger to start on 4 of them.They were re-charged within an hour and when I woke again I set up the other 4 for re-charging, switching in a new set for the camera.

 

In the morning I ate breakfast in the room using milk I bought the evening before and kept in the small refrigerator in the room.I also checked the weather and didnít see anything different Ė 30% chance of showers and possibility of thunderstorms.The weather looked OK outside so I packed up and left around 7:30.

 

The road started climbing gradually from the start and would climb from just less than 7,000 to 8,550 feet over 22 miles with just one descent of a couple hundred feet.A sign along the road noted this was the Coronado Trail Scenic Road and the initial miles lived up to that billing.After a climb over a hill and a nice following descent the road threaded its way through close-in hills.Then the hills receded a bit into an open area.

 

All the while some ominous clouds hovered in the distance in the direction I was headed.As I headed to the significant climb to 8,550 I kept a lookout for possible shelters along the way, especially when I heard some thunder rumbling, but I kept plugging on and encountered another problem Ė cold.My fingers and bare toes were getting quite cold in the low 40s temperature.Eventually I stopped and put on my rain gear, full-fingered gloves, and Seal Skinz socks.I had to do this because if I had waited much longer my fingers would have been too cold to put on the gear.This also gave me the opportunity to use my Pearl Izumi rain coat that I got for about half price at a factory outlet near Naperville.

 

Appropriately dressed I was comfortable as I ground my way to 8,550.That was followed by a 2 mile descent to Alpine, a small town near the New Mexico border in a hunting and fishing area.I stopped at a foodmart and it started raining shortly.I hung out there for a time while deciding what to do since the clouds didnít look encouraging.The next town was Reserve, another 26 miles away and it involved some substantial climbing.Given the clouds I decided it was best to hole up and hope for better weather tomorrow.

 

There were 2 motels in town but this was also hunting season so I didnít expect a great deal.Both places were about $50 and one was full but the clerk at one motel told me about an RV Park that took campers so I decided to check it out.It was on the edge of town so it was conveniently located near food.It also had a Laundromat where I could hang out inside with some reading material.So I paid $9 and hung out in the Laundromat for a while, dozing off for a short time during more rain.

 

I was surprised to learn that Alpine had a library where I could have gotten Internet access but it was a holiday and closed.However, the RV Park owners had Internet access and were gracious enough to allow me to check email.Later, I walked to town and had a dinner buffet for $9.95.It was OK but didnít have a great selection of food, as would be expected in a small town.

Day 16: Tue, Oct 12, 2004 - Alpine, NM to Leopold Vista, NM [71.5, 6:22:08, 11.2, 34]

When I got up it was a cool 29 degrees but I was comfortable in my tent and sleeping bag.More important, there were no clouds in the sky.My tent had some ice and it was still wet so I packed everything up inside the tent and then walked into town for breakfast at the Bear Wallow Cafť Ė across the street from where I ate last night.This must have been the right place because it was almost completely full.However, only one waitress had shows up and she was in perpetual motion trying to take care of everything.I would have liked to have brought the slow-motion waitress in Williams here to show what a waitress can do.I had the pancakes which were good.And shortly before I left, Ting, the missing waitress showed up.She had a smile on her face, maybe because she got to sleep in.

 

Back at camp I moved my tent out in to the sun to dry it off some.Then I packed everything and was off around 8:45 with the temperature in the mid 40s.The road started with a little descending and a little climbing and 2 significant descents of 6% and 5.5% according to signs, with a climb in between.This was followed by a major climb of about 1,000 feet, most of it on a 4 mile stretch with a couple of nice views of mountains to the east and west.This climb was rewarded with a long descent of about 2,000 feet.During this descent it got considerably warmer and the aspen were just on the verge of showing their colors.

 

After this descent, the road climbed about 500 feet over a 3 mile stretch at a little less grade than the previous climb, topping out at Saliz Pass.After the pass the land opened up to mountains that seemed to surround the panorama.This great scenery lasted for the rest of the day, the best scenery aside from the Grand Canyon.Although the road descended mostly for 17 miles it was relatively slow going as I had to stop often for photos.

 

Near the bottom of the descent I stopped at a small country store in Glenwood for a break, having my usual burrito and cold drink.Continuing, the Mongollon Mountains on my left dominated the landscape but the right side was almost its equal.I climbed away from Glenwood after some initial descending through this captivating scenery.At the top of the climb out I stopped at the Leopold Vista, named after Aldo Leopold Vista, the famous naturalist who started his career in this part of the country, with a stunning view of the Mongollon Mountains.The Vista was a picnic area with several picnic tables under individual shelters.Since I didnít see any No Camping signs I decided I could just lay my sleeping bag on top of a picnic table and sleep under the stars with a magnificent view awaiting me in the morning.This also meant I didnít need to hassle with unpacking my bike and I was an easy 10 or so miles from Buckhorn.

 

So I picked the table furthest from the mountain view to be the least intrusive and ate from my food store, jerky and some health nut bagels that were even better with honey.Not quite enough food, the cinnamon roll I had bought for breakfast didnít make it to breakfast.Then I wrote my notes in the waning daylight and settled in for the night, watching the star come out.When it was completely dark a van pulled into the lot, apparently intending to park by my picnic table until it noticed me and backed off.

Day 17: Wed, Oct 13, 2004 - Leopold Vista, NM to Silver City, NM [56.1, 4:58:31, 11.3, 37.4]

I got to watch the sunrise make its appearance from my vantage point.I also noticed a small pickup truck that left around 6:00.I setup my tent in the sun to dry it out from the day before and ate breakfast at the picnic table that had been my bed all night.

 

By 7:30 I was packed and on my way without any sign of stirring from the van.In a few miles I rejoined the Adventure Cycling route.I had about 10 miles to Buckhorn where I expected to eat breakfast but there was only a general store there so I had a drink and got my water bottles filled.Then another 5 miles I discovered Cliff had a cafť so I stopped for breakfast because there would be nothing else until Silver City and I would be climbing most of the rest of the way.Their pancakes were just OK but inexpensive.

 

The mountains I saw yesterday gradually receded and the landscape was rolling grassland hills with desert shrubs.Still scenic but nothing like yesterdayís dramatic scenery.Along the way I think I saw my first rattlesnake of the trip.It was stretched out on the pavement in my direction of travel and completely smashed into the pavement so identification was not perfect.

 

Although the climbing was about 2,000 feet it wasnít really hard climbing.Still I could tell my legs were a little tired, which was not surprising in light of the substantial climbing over the last several days.I started thinking about a rest day in Silver City rather than waiting until El Paso.

 

It was just over 50 miles to Silver City and I descended into town around 2:00.I stopped and got directions to the library and as I got near the library I was hailed by Greg, another touring cyclist but a more ambitious one.Greg had started in Alaska and intended to go to the tip of South America.He was in town for several days getting his bike tuned up and taking care of business for his foray into Mexico.

 

After chatting a while I stopped off at the library and took care of email.Then I headed to the Gila Hike & Bike down the street where Greg had his bike.I had hoped to link up with Greg again but that didnít happen.I did get the shop to look at my rear shifting that was jumping gears in the 3rd largest cog and they adjusted the cable tension.This was similar to the shifting problem I had last year where the mechanic thought I might need to replace my bar end shifter.I didnít replace the shifter because shifting wasnít a problem all year until this trip.While at the shop I also had them clean and lube my chain.All this for a little less than $5.

 

After leaving the shop I headed to the RV Park but no one was there until 5:00 so I asked directions to the post office where I mailed the paperback I had just finished reading to my friend John, its owner.John had loaned it to me about 6 months ago and probably thought he would never see it again.Then I headed back to the RV Park just as ominous clouds moved in with some strong wind.I decided to wait a bit to see what would develop.After some rain things cleared up a bit and the wind died down so I decided to get a tent site for $11.

 

I set up my tent and then walked to a Dominicís Pizza, not realizing it was a takeout place.When my pizza was done it had started raining again so I ate it there.When I was finished the rain had stopped so I started walking back and it started raining again.I passed by a building where a guy was just leaving and he offered to give me a ride.It was only a couple blocks but it saved me from getting wet.

 

Back at the ranch I did some food shopping at the grocery store next door.Then I wrote my notes in the Laundromat.

Day 18: Thu, Oct 14, 2004 - Silver City, NM to Caballo Lake SP, NM [84.3, 7:57:14, 10.6, 39.9]

When I got up it was 37 degrees but more importantly there were no clouds in the sky.It had rained at some point early in the night but my tent was fairly dry.Unfortunately, the tent site was situated amongst some trees and near a hill and not in a position to catch the morning sun so I rolled it up after I dried it off as best I could with paper towels.I had my usual breakfast and was off around 8:40, later than it might seem but New Mexico was on Daylight Savings Time and Arizona wasnít.

 

I picked up 180 heading east on a roller coaster ride.After 7 miles I stopped at a little cafť off the road in Santa Clara and had pancakes for breakfast.They were on the small side but so was the price.Leaving I took 152 towards Hanover and climbed some before descending to the Mimbres River, with a view of the Santa Rita Pit Mine along the way.

 

Then I started the approximate 3,000 foot climb to Emory Pass at 8,228 feet, the highest point on the Adventure Cycling route but not quite as high as I had climbed just before Alpine.I climbed through rocky grasslands hemmed in by hills on both sides.The grasslands gave away to heavily forested hills including a couple of bowls.Then I started some descending which I hadnít expected.I took a lunch break with a couple bagels, gearing up for the climbing I knew was still ahead.

 

I descended a little more and then began some scenic climbing for about 4 miles, first through some huge, towering rocks, followed by tall pines, followed by a mixture of pines and deciduous trees.It was autumn at this elevation, attested by the leaves on the ground along the road. Finally, I began a 3 mile stretch of real climbing along a curvy, twisting road that had 4 or 5 U turns.Yesterday at the bike shop a customer had commented that the last 2-3 miles were steep.He was right but the steep grade relented occasionally and provided occasional relief.I managed the climb oscillating around the 5 mph mark.

 

At Emory Pass there was a vista turnoff that I took.The vista provided a dramatic panoramic view of the Rio Grand Valley below on a clear day.I could see Caballo Lake some 30 miles away.The view was just stunning and I rested and soaked in the view.

 

When I resumed the road was a winding, twisting descent for about 15 miles.I held my bike in check for safety and to admire the view.I passed through the small towns of Kingston, once a silver mining camp with 22 saloons and 1 church, and Hillsboro, a former gold and silver camp.At Hillsboro I decided to continue another 17 miles to Caballo Lake.This was a fairly easy decision as it was a little downhill most of the way.I had one fair hill to climb past Hillsboro and after that I put my bike in the big chainring and pedaled easily through grassland that became desert shrub.

 

At the 187 junction at Caballo Lake, formed by damming the Rio Grande River and 18 miles long when full, I turned south to the state park.I went a little past the park turnoff looking for a small food store that I never found.I turned back and entered the park where a primitive site was $8 with shower.I never found the primitive sites so I commandeered a regular site with a covered picnic table.I considered sleeping on the picnic table again but there seemed to be some mosquitoes around.So I elected to erect my self-supporting tent on the concrete slab for the table since everything else was gravel.This was also good as it gave my tent a chance to dry out.

 

Then I ate from my food stash, jerky and bagels.Later, still hungry I had cereal for desert.

Day 19: Fri, Oct 15, 2004 - Caballo Lake SP, NM to Anthony, TX [94.8, 7:29:30, 12.6]

It was 42 degrees when I got up.I got to see the sun come up as I ate breakfast and packed up.As I was leaving I was in a quandary because I hadnít paid my camping fee since I didnít have the exact $8.As I left I was surprised to see staff at the check-in so I paid my $8 and left with a good conscience.

 

In a few miles I passed Arrey where I was tempted to stop at a cafť where a number of vehicles were gathered around Ė usually a good sign - but I had decided to wait until Hatch, 22 miles away.For most of the day I traveled through an agricultural valley on a flat road with a slight downgrade so pedaling was easy.Right off the bat I could tell that hay was one of the big crops.Then it was obvious chile was a major crop as I saw both chile packing plants and chile fields with the red chiles hanging on the plants.What I couldnít figure out was the orchards so I finally asked a local and he explained they were pecan groves and I saw them most of the day.

 

In addition to the agricultural crops several mountains lined the east side of the Rio Grande Valley, providing a scenic backdrop for the day.I also saw the Rio Grande River for the first time a few miles before Hatch.

 

After 22 miles I pulled into Hatch, which billed itself as the Chile Capital of the World, and stopped at a small cafť for breakfast Ė my usual pancakes and coffee.When I left I noticed a pain on the inside of my left knew that felt like a tendon.It didnít bother me except when climbing and there was very little of that.This was surprising since Iíve never had knee pain on my tours and didnít want it on this tour.As the day wore on the pain eventually disappeared.

 

A few miles outside Hatch I stopped to take a photo and a guy in a pickup stopped to chat.Frank lived in Silver City and was also a cyclist.Last summer he had cycled to Chicago to see his daughter.He had also cycled events around Silver City.

 

I cycled another 21 miles to Radium Springs as the agricultural land disappeared for a while and then reappeared for the rest of the way.I saw a lot of cotton along the way.Another 18 miles brought me through the western edge of Las Cruces, where I hit my first stop light since Silver City.I stopped at a foodmart for my usual burrito except I didnít have to nuke it.The food mart had a grill so my burrito came hot off the grill.

 

I left Las Cruces well fortified and continued a few more miles to Mesilla, which was a potential stopping point because it had a camping area and there was nothing else on the route, camping or motel, until El Paso.But I had only covered 60 miles and it was only 2:30 so I pushed on, wanting to get close to El Paso so Saturday would be an easy day.After Mesilla there was more cotton and a lot of pecan trees.In several places the pecan trees lined both sides of the road.A couple of the pecan groves had mature trees that formed a canopy over the road.

 

In La Mesa I stopped for a few groceries since I wasnít sure what lay ahead for the evening.Then after close to 90 miles I headed off route to Anthony.I had only about 30 miles left to El Paso which I could have done except I was certain to run out of daylight.So I turned towards Anthony where there was supposed to be a motel.While looking for a motel I spotted a deal to good to pass up - $4.95 for an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet.At first I thought it was $9.95 but was really $4.95 so I did what any self-respecting touring cyclist would do Ė I ate.

 

I tried calling the Caravan Motel twice but got no answer.Then I found a decrepit sign for the motel with no motel in sight so it was obviously gone.So I headed a little further east to I10 where I knew there was a Super 8.Then I noticed a city park that looked fine for camping but the folks next door werenít sure camping was allowed.They gave me directions to city hall where I could inquire but the directions were bogus.

 

With the sun setting I headed to the Super 8 where I got a room for $54, one of the last rooms according to the clerk.I knew the room wouldnít be cheap but it did have a free continental breakfast where I would have to try to make up for the room cost.I also got some extra exercise lugging my bike up to the 2nd floor.Then to add insult to injury the TV didnít even have The Weather Channel.

 

In my room I set up my tent, not to sleep in but to let it dry out.Thatís when I noticed the strong odor in the room.When I complained to the clerk he said that was disinfectant used by the cleaning folks.I told the clerk I would expect some compensation for a substandard room since there were no other rooms available to switch to.He told me to check with him in the morning.

Day 20: Sat, Oct 16, 2004 - Anthony, TX to El Paso, TX [33.5, 2:51:51, 11.7, 26.1]

I took advantage of the continental breakfast in the morning.When I checked with the clerk he said he had been unable to contact anyone about compensation for my smelly room.So I got his name to cite in a complaint letter.

 

As I prepared to leave I noticed my front tire was a little low so I pumped it up.I left around 7:30 when the sun was up and headed back to highway 20.I saw a group of cyclists out for their morning ride and thought I might be able to catch them since the road was downhill somewhat and I had the advantage on a downhill.But the road flattened out and they turned north on 20 while I headed south.

 

In the 5 miles south on 20 to pick up 28 I momentarily left Texas and then re-entered it.I crossed the Rio Grande and picked up 273 all the way to Sunland Park and within about a mile of Mexico.From there I followed the Adventure Cycling route back to 20.Along the way I spotted a Sports Authority store so I stopped and bought a new pair of lightweight tights to replace the tights I was wearing that were almost completely worn through at the knees.

 

Once back on 20 I followed Laurieís directions to her place at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.Her directions took me along a winding route and up a fairly steep but short hill whereas the route I would have taken on my own was flatter and more straight forward.That made me wonder whether Laurie was trying to wear me out or test my stamina.

 

In any event I found her house without problem and she was surprised to see me show up around 11:00, expecting me either later in the day or tomorrow.I got a quick tour of the place and used the laundry facilities to do my first real laundry of the trip.Then I settled into an easy chair to watch my alma mater lose to Texas in Football and my St. Louis Cardinals lose to Houston in the NL baseball playoffs.Once I settled into the easy chair I could feel my body just letting go of the strain of daily touring and I knew I would not last long into the evening.

 

Later, Laurie took me to a used bookstore so I could get another paperback to read and then we ate at a good hole-in-the-wall type of Mexican restaurant.We followed that up with a side trip to the mountain overlooking El Paso for a glittering night time view of El Paso and Juarez.Then we returned home and discussed how to rejoin the Adventure Cycling route to make it out of the city on Monday.More importantly we discussed where to forward my absentee ballot that didnít make it to El Paso as I had hoped.We settled on Marathon, just outside Big Bend National Park, which would give me just enough time to fill it out and return it.

 

 


 

Copyright Denis Kertz, 2004. All rights reserved.