Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Windmills and rolling plains

Well, here's a classic symbol of the Texas plains, a windmill. And after riding a couple of hundred miles across them, I find them quite appropriate, not only as a survival tool for the farmers and ranchers, but also as a subtle warning for cross-country bicyclists. It's windy out here on the plains! Now, back home in El Paso, we get some pretty impressive sand storms, but all in all, we average less than 12 mph, which is why those big ol’ wind turbines aren’t standing shoulder to shoulder on the Franklin Mountains. Out here on the plains, a LIGHT breeze is 15 to 20 mph and fields of three armed Goliaths are, indeed, beginning to pop up.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m just reporting and not complaining (yet). So far, the wind has been our friend, and by that, I mean it’s been at our back or at the worst, a crosswind, but I’m certainly glad that we’re heading east and not west or south because a light wind of 15 miles per hour in our face would translate out to an agonizing crawl.
“So what if’n I ain’t got a good eductin, Jasus loves me anyway.”
“Now, you tell me, where’s a girl to pee out here?”
These boots were probably made for riding, but one old cowboy wanted to fondly remember those good old boots long after they stopped fitting into the stirrups so he hung them on the fence post to smile at each time he rode past.
Even Charley is amazed at his own juggling skills as he entertains a group of appreciative prairie dogs at free campsite in Crosbytown.

If there are any hills out there on this flat plain, just give us a bike and we will find them.

Kamala lifts a mug of delicious tea after a delicious meal at our “free” (wild camping) campsite on the S. Wichita River. We were serenaded by a family of coyotes howling, appropriately, at a full moon. I suspect they may have been more interested in the turkeys that I heard gobbling from the farm on the other side of the river than the moon.

We’ve now covered 615 miles on our way across North Texas. There have been good times and hard, sometimes all in the same day. The butts are tougher, the muscles stronger and our love and relationship is still intact and prospering. One of the neatest parts of this sort of adventure is sharing it with someone. I’m certainly glad I ended up with someone who is just crazy enough to enjoy this with me.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Blowing winds

It’s really neat how the cycle of life continues. We enjoyed the opportunity to visit with our Nephew, his wife, and their little girl in Roswell. I believe that it was the first time that we really had a conversation with him since he has become an adult. Wasn’t it just yesterday we were visiting his mom and he was only a week old?

But it’s verified. If you are a motorist out there, you have absolutely no idea if it is really flat out there. We were told several times that it was flat between Roswell and Artesia--wrong. It is actually a slight uphill all the way. Even I wouldn’t have known it by looking out the car window.

As we spin the pedals round and round, inching our way across the New Mexico countryside, we find ourselves smack-dab in the middle of busy oil patches. One of the ways that you can tell that you’re in oil country (besides those giant robotic insectoids bobbing their heads up and down) is all the work gloves scattered along the side of the road. The popular colors are florescent green and orange with traditional white coming in 3rd, all having seen a hard day’s work. We've taken to calling out, "Green glove," "Orange glove," for simple amusement that helps pass the time. We, of course, had to put one on the back of the bike so that it's waving to people. At first, we had a ‘green glove’ but I, Kamala, thought that might give the go ahead to hit us, so now we have an orange glove. We even washed it!

Going to Lovington was a different trip altogether. We climb for about 35 of the 64 mile day. Halfway here, just a mere mile and a half from topping the caprock, we stop at a rest area, and just as we’re almost stopped, slip in some sand and down the bike goes. While recovering ourselves (actually it was Charley recovering me and the bike), the park caretaker comes over and tells Charley in jest, “I saw you throw that bike on top of her. Y’ll want some coffee?” We spend the next 30 minutes or so in Mack’s office coffee brewing and the conversation flowing. He tells us about this one cross-country cyclist who stopped to use the restroom. Mack got to wondering what would happen if he were to move the man’s bike 10 feet. He said the fellow came out, didn’t see his bike, ran one way in the park, then the other way, then again repeating his back and forth jaunts. Mack stops to chuckle during his tale as he recalls that the cyclist even went back in the bathroom to look for the bike. By that time Mack was feeling guilty for causing so much trauma and came clean and said that he was sorry, he didn’t know that it would give him a heart attack. All I could think of, while I smile and nod, is that is why we never leave the bike alone.

Coffee now in our cups and as we drink we were treated to a joke:
An elderly man went into the hospital. His granddaughter came rushing up to visit and blurted out, “Grandpa, talk like a frog! Talk like a frog!”
The man scratched his head and said, “Huh? What you talking about?”
“Grams says that when you croak she’s goin’ take me to Six Flags! So talk like a frog!”

We bid farewell to Mack and head back out on the road with a wind at our backs. We top the caprock and it is relatively flat. The tailwind is strong. Caffeine is pumping our systems and we are flying. I look down at the speedometer and can’t believe my eyes: 27.7 mph! I take a picture because who, really, is going to believe me? Too soon though, just after that it was 30 mph!

I see a dark front moving across the plains. Soon we are caught up in it at a crosswind. Charley is fighting to keep the bike on the road. It passes and the tailwind is once again at our backs.  We stay an extra day in Lovington as the wind switches around and vows to be our enemy if we ride. As we leave town a mailbox attendant waves, “So long!”

We finally get to camp out at the Brownfield city park. Mack told us about this little gem.
When daybreak comes back around, we know we have some maintenance to do: Thermarest has a small leak and the tent needs a patch were a seam is pulling loose.

Still, a tailwind persists today, good thing too, because we pedal at an incline all the way to Lubbock. Along the way, the English teacher comes out of me when I notice the misspelling on a business sign.

 On the shopping list is a bicycle shop specific item and so we set out for, as Charley calls it, the mouth of the dragon (into downtown traffic of a big city). We normally try to avoid cities, but sometimes it is a necessity. While we are stopped, trying to figure out a route, a lady exiting the bank stops to help us. She says, “Let me see, if I were a cyclist, this is the way I would want to go. . .” She actually picked out bicycle routes through town but I don’t think she knew they were designated routes, just that the roads were safe. Thank you! It even has bicycle lights, like The Netherlands! Thank you! Thank you!

So here we sit an extra day hiding from the wind that is pointed and gusting at 40 mph the wrong way. Tomorrow we have scheduled our departure for yet another run down the road. Stay tuned! Comments are welcome, it lets us know you’re out there.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Heading out

A friend of ours once looked at the maps of our routes and pointed out that the one thing that they had in common was that at some point the routes went by someone we knew. He was right, of course. As much as we like the adventure element of each trip we do enjoy tapping old friends, touching spirits, and rekindling old embers of relationships. If all goes well, this trip should have a few of those moments. In fact, our first night out was with some friends who live in Northeast El Paso. In order to avoid a hundred mile first day, Missy and Freddie offered to let us stay with them, thus making the first day a short 29 mile ride and the next day would be a more “do-able” ride.

We had pizza and caught up on events in our lives. The most important new relationship in their lives was Ozzy, who we had only seen for a couple of brief moments since he had arrived in this reality. A happy, smiley little fellow, Ozzy was obviously a source of joy and a center of attention. It was a great evening and a great way to start out a trip!

New Psychological Field

What does your parking behavior say about you? Well, now there’s this place that we found in Alamogordo that can tell if you’re a little neurotic, have a borderline personality, have a compulsive disorder or if you’re a full blown psychotic just by the way that you park your car.
Who knew?

Alamogordo Point of Interest -- The years have not been really kind to him but Rocky the Roadrunner still dominates the junk yard north of town on Hwy 54.

As the wise philosopher once said “Shit Happens”, but sometimes that’s not all bad. We had planned to make our third day a real short ride to an RV park that we had stayed at a few times in our camper. I had even asked him about staying there in a tent, which he cheerfully said we could. But when we arrived, he said he didn’t take tenters any more because he had had some trouble with them. So with our hopes for a leisurely afternoon dashed we continued on towards Tularosa. Even though we did not remember a motel there, Google maps showed one on down the road about 7 miles. Alas, when we got there, NOTHING. So Kamala calls the number and it turns out the motel is in Canada. Come on Google, Canada? So, no motels or campground, but when we try Bed & Breakfasts we get a hit. Turns out Hacienda de mi Madre is a very nice private place with a kitchen and a Jacuzzi bathtub (which my body really enjoyed). All in all Hacienda de mi Madre was so much better than an RV park. So not all shit happening ends up bad.

This road from Tularosa to Ruidoso with it’s 25 miles of uphill and 3,000 foot gain in altitude has been one that has been one of those rides spinning in the back of our minds for a long time and every time it bubbled up to the surface we would say “Some day”. Well, finally we made today that ‘someday.’ The wind on our back actually gave us a hand, but it was tough enough that we’re going to count it anyway (it wasn’t exactly world record time anyway).

We and the snow arrived in Ruidoso at about the same time.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tandem North Texas

Wheels are spinning in
Our minds and bicycle. Maps
Brought out and looked at.

Training and hours
Spent on the bicycle to
Toughen up buttocks.

Checklists looked at and
Items checked off , loaded on our
Trusty metal steed.

Where does this haiku
Take this tandem team? A new
Great bicycle trip!

Going north Tuesday
To Texas US highway
82 eastward.

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