Sent: Wednesday, 9/17/03
To: Friends and Family
Subject: Lake Roberts to Antelope Wells
September 15 - Lake Roberts to Silver City (46 miles, 3040 feet)
Today's ride was entirely on pavement, due partly to my poor map reading ability and partly to my laziness. I missed the turnoff to a 5-mile dirt "shortcut" with a big elevation gain. We had gone about a mile past the turn when I realized my mistake. Rather than backtracking, we opted for the longer route (more miles towards my mileage goal) with an easier climb (avoiding the shooting pains in my knees that comes with climbing). Mark and Evan took the shortcut, and based on their description of the road condition, I'm glad we missed it.
We stopped at the huge Santa Rita Pit Mine, the oldest operational mine in New Mexico. Copper was taken from this mine as early as 1800. It's mind-boggling to realize there's still any copper left after 200 years.
While we were hoping Mark could stay with us until we hit the border, he needed to head back to Denver to work. He left his car in Albuquerque at my parents' house. Evan kindly offered their truck as transportation, and took the camper off of it. Jim drove Mark to Albuquerque, leaving at 4:30 and returning around 3:00 a.m. Jim's trip was uneventful until he got a speeding ticket on his return trip just outside of Silver City for going 65 in a 55 MPH zone. The officer detained him for about 30 minutes since the license plate for the truck was on the camper.
September 16 - Silver City to north of Hachita (65 miles, 2220 feet)
The guidebook breaks the final 125 miles into 3 riding days. That sounded just fine to me, but Evan and Janeen wanted to push it into 2 days. We agreed to meet at Separ, then make a decision as to how much further we would go.
Deserts are beautiful in their own way, but riding through them does not especially appeal to me. The Chihuahuan Desert has one thing in common with that 135-mile section between trees in Wyoming -- brutal winds. Once while we were stopped for an energy bar break we watched five dust devils dancing in a nearby field. It was easy to imagine they were chasing each other around in a spirited game of tag. It was entertaining then, but the wind got to be downright annoying as the day wore on.
Separ is an exit off of I-10. If there was more to it than a tourist shop and an abandoned truck stop, I don't remember it. It wasn't a place I particularly wanted to spend the night, so I agreed to push on. Hachita was too far away in light of my painful knees. My dad agreed to pick us up at 6:00 so we could spend the night in Hachita at the RV park so we could run the air conditioning. The temperatures have been in the high 90s in the day, and not cooling off nearly enough at night.
Evan and Janeen joined us for dinner since it was our last night together. As we reminisced about our trip, we heard what sounded like a gunshot above the hum of the air conditioner. My dad and Jim found out later that a volunteer "animal control officer" took action to keep the skunk from entering the only bar in town. The unmistakable odor of skunk lingered in the air.
September 17 - North of Hachita to Antelope Wells (60 miles, 1240 feet)
I woke up early, anxious to start our last day. Since Jim and I were picked up 13 miles north of Hachita, we started the day with an out-and-back ride to make up the mileage. Janeen wanted to finish the ride with Evan, so she rode with him, leaving their camper in Hachita.
Up until this point, we had experienced few problems with our bikes. Jim had one flat on the first day's ride and an intermittent problem with squeaky brakes. There had been a couple of mornings when our tires had gone flat overnight. Our luck was about to change. First, Jim's rear tire had a broken spoke. Then we hit a 10-mile stretch of road where workers were mowing the weeds on the side of the road. Inch-long mesquite thorns had been spread all over the road by the mowers. For the next hour or two, we had 6 flats between us, 4 for me and 2 for Jim. We went through all of our patches in two patch kits and two spare tubes (some flats required two patches). We rode very slowly to avoid the thorns, knowing that if we had one more flat we'd be walking 20 miles to the border. Hitching a ride was unlikely since only a few vehicles had passed us all day. It was hot, windy, dusty, and miserable. My knees hurt and I was getting low on water.
Just as I was wishing for a miracle, I looked up to see the motorhome heading toward us. Evan and Janeen had finished before us and told my parents about the trouble they'd had with flats. Janeen had 2 flats and pumped up slow leaks several more times. Evan, with his Kevlar-lined tires, was the only one to make it through unscathed. Evan suggested to my parents that they come back to check on us. Jim got more patch kits and I filled up my Camelback with water. Dad gave us the welcome news that we were near the end of the moving operation. Armed with the confidence that comes with a large supply of patches, we picked up our pace and made the rest of the trip without any more flats.
The border still seemed a long way away, especially with a nasty headwind. I rode right behind Jim to let him break the wind, something I've resisted for far too long. I guess I'll never be a road rider. About 5 miles from the border, the road turned and we had the pleasure of a tailwind to end our trip. The border closed at 4:00, and we came straggling in at 3:30.
Having my parents with us at the completion of our trip was perfect. They offered their heartfelt congratulations. It felt good to be done.
While I wasn't wallowing in self-pity about how miserable this last day had been, I was thinking about Corey who was undergoing surgery for breast cancer today. For Corey, Roxanna, Charlotte, Angie and the many other brave women who have fought breast cancer, this one's for you.
Total elevation gain: 136,000 feet.
Completed in 59 days, with 8 rest days (non-riding days would be more accurate).
I fully expected to lose about 10 pounds and have perfect cheerleader thighs by the end of this trip. I'm sorry to say that didn't happen. My total weight loss was only 4 lousy pounds. And now that this trip is over, I'll have to start eating like a girl again instead of a lumberjack just to maintain it.
We have another month on this adventure before we return home. After a few days at my parents’ house in Albuquerque, we'll hit the road again. We'll play some golf and ride bikes, making up those miles we skipped due to forest fires, rain, mud, and high volume traffic on narrow paved roads. Then we'll head to Punta Punesco, Mexico for 10 days with Coke and Edna Falstead where we can try to get rid of those funky biker tan lines.
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