Thursday, November 17, 2011
Kamala: “Why do you carry so much gear? You camp out?” Well, we don’t always camp out but it really comes in handy. We did a spring-break mini-tour back in 2002, We came upon a couple who were in their 50s. He had always wanted to do a cross-country bicycle tour. There he was, his wife at his side and his dream was now a reality. What did they carry? Almost nothing. They each a change of clothes and bare minimum tools. All went into two little (I mean little) panniers. I worried about them. Such long distances through the desert meant you HAD to get to your destination. What if something went wrong? What if ‘weather’ happened? What if . . .? From our experience it is not always possible to reach destinations and carrying all of our stuff gives us options.
Take yesterday for example. We have been going 58, 61,67 miles a day. While the days have been long, they also have been smooth. Tailwinds have added an extra perk. But ask any cyclist, what is their biggest enemy and I’ll bet they’ll answer, “Headwinds.” That is what happened yesterday.
We’re working at slight incline all day and battling against a headwind. Our destination is 60 miles away and we start the day at 8:00 in the morning. By the time we make 36 miles at Melrose, NM at 2:30 in the afternoon, we know we’re in trouble. We can’t top 7 - 8 mph and the math means (which I constantly calculate and recalculate in my head while spinning pedals around) 3 or more hours of grinding. After Melrose, the incline mellows and we are able to get the speed up to about 9, but the northeasterly wind is icy cold. Our bones are chilled. Charley begins to look at the alternatives around us; we are going to wild camp. Finally, a small group of water elms appear along the road. Charley stops and goes checks it out. Wow! What a sanctuary! Looks like someone else saw it too, because they left a camp stove gas cylinder and a clearing where they pitched a tent. The trees provide perfect camouflage from passing cars. I watch as traffic passes by, and I can see that drivers are just mesmerized by the road directly in front of them and they don’t see us. We set up with stiffening cold fingers just in time. As Charley gets into the tent, the sun says goodbye for another day. We snuggle in our cozy down bag to warm up. The train rambles by on a nearby track tooting its horn of safety. We fall asleep, warm and snug, ever grateful of the cargo we haul around.