Day 24 – “Don’t let the sun go down on me” – Elton John

Sanderson to Del Rio, TX

110 miles

It’s simple.  A basic math problem really.  How many hours will it take to cover 110 miles?   If your average speed is 10mph then it will take 11 hours of cycling.  Add a stop or to and you are at 12-13 hours of riding.   If you are faster, then your hours in the saddle are reduced.   If you are slower, then , well, the numbers may prove that it is an impossible task to complete before the sun goes down.

We awoke well before dawn, and rolled out early as if we were thieves in the night.  A line of bikes with red blinkie lights trying to make our presence known, riding into the sunrise.   The initial pace was set, and it was fast – trying to make progress before the winds began to rise.

After the first SAG stop at mile 20 , the math re-calculation began.   I had started the day with the approach that I would like to completed the 110 miles, but that I was more focused on how many hours I wanted to ride – and that would determine how many miles I would ride.

The next 20 miles, changed all of that.  The math showed that the mph dropped significantly when dealing with a 25-30 mile head wind with gusts that nearly knocked you over.   The revised goal was make it to lunch at mile 59, and then determine next move based on time remaining.

We checked in with the SAG driver with 14 miles to get to lunch.  Took us 1 hour to go 4 miles. With 7 miles to go to lunch (at an estimated 90 minutes to get there), the SAG drove by to check on our progress.   We tapped our helmets and were picked up.  By that time we had been riding for 7.5 hours.  51 miles – 7.5 hours.  60 more miles to go – at least another 7.5 hours.    I have gutted it out several times over the last 3 weeks, but I saw no sense in riding for another 3-4 hours to try and pick up another 20 miles.  Tough decision, but for me, one that I feel good about.

When we arrived at lunch – there were 11 other riders awaiting our arrival. – We all packed it in and drove the next 60 miles in the van.  That left 14 riders on the road.  Long story short– only 5 riders made the entire 110 miles – and they are the strongest riders  – it took them 12 hours to get in -they arrived after 7:30 pm.  The remaining riders were picked up at various points – and a few had to be cajoled into the van, as it was dark, and it was not safe for them to continue.

The will and spirit of every woman on this trip is incredible.  Whether they did 30 miles today or the entire 110 – ever single one gave it their all.   A few of the riders had to abandon their goal to ride every final mile, and I know that it was a difficult decision.

There is another cross country group on the road with the us the last few days, Bubba’s Pampered Peddlars.   Bubba has operated the trip for several years, and told the group that this was the most difficult day that he has experienced.   The wind was relentless, and for 110 hilly miles – it made for an arduous journey.   Only the very strongest were able to complete it, and they had to dig deep

Tomorrow is another day.

 

 

Day 23 – “Train Kept A Rollin” Aerosmith

Marathon, Tx to Sanderson, TX

55 Miles

We left Marathon and headed to Sanderson, TX (Cactus Capital of Texas!) with the wind in our face, but a manageable 55 miles to get there.  We did not rush as we were told that Sanderson lacked, well,  lacked.    We snacked at mile 54 at a gas station /take out food – mmm yum.  I had an apple pie and a chocolate milk – the cooked food looked less appealing.

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Upon arrival at the Budget Inn, my room was not ready so I cleaned up my bike to prepare for tomorrow’s big ride.  When my room was finally ready, well…. I am not much on camping, but for a moment or two, I thought it may have been the better choice.

My room was the last to be assigned, and as I cleaned Sweet Ruby, I could see a lot of activity in the back of the motel – in a small section of 4 rooms.  3 of which are boarded up – and “my” room  was being worked on – someone was vacuuming, a tv was being hooked up to cable.  Sounds appealing….right?  Not.  The good news is that the room was clean, and portions of it were new – new mattress, clean, fresh smelling sheets.  That was the good news  – the rest, well – I will try and focus on the positive.  It is clear that we are in the middle of nowhere.  Miles, and miles and we see few houses, few imagecars, and very few businesses – or open businesses.

Nothing like experience – another flat for Tanya and we are becoming pretty good at the on the road tire change!

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Few terrain features that caught my attention today but one that did was this terrific Ranch gate.

A constant companion of ours since we left California, and very predominant since we have been traveling on Route 90 East are the freight trains.   Today I counted one that had over 100 cars of freight. We see several a day, and often hear the whistle in the middle of the night.

 

Tomorrow is a long one – 110 miles to Del Rio — A century plus a decade!

The forecast is calling for tough winds again.  We shall see what the day brings!

Day 22 – “Free Falling” Tom Petty

Ft. Davis to Marathon, TX

60 miles, make that 60 blissful miles

Ah, what a difference a day or two can make — today was actually fun and enjoyable.  After all the difficult and challenging days it was such a relief to have a day without having to dig deep and gut it out.

After two days at the Indian Lodge we continued on 90 East toward Marathon, TX – 60 miles due east.   Mostly downhill or rolling flats – and even the chip seal pavement did not slow us down.  The winds were at our backs and at times it felt as though I was flying.   At one point I was pedaling (with a generous push from the wind) at 34 miles per hour.  I stopped pedaling for a mile and was still clocking 30!  That shows how powerful the wind can be – and oh, so much more enjoyable when at your back.

As we left the Davis Mountains, the terrain became more expansive as the mountains receded further into the background.   Cattle grazed, and looked at us curiously, cars were sparse, ranches were large and the sunshine was strong.

The only thing that slowed us down today was a flat tire for my peddaling buddy, but with our powers combined, and our new tire  changing prowess, we fixed it and were off and flying again in no time. There are these very tiny thorns that penetrate the tire and puncture the tube – they are so small they are often difficult to find in the tire – sharp, small and effective at creating a quick flat!

The group was split between the historic Gage Hotel and the very eclectic Eve’s Garden B & B.  Two very different properties.  I am staying at the B & B which is pretty funky.   Clearly a labor of love for a few creative minds – brightly colored, and furnished it is quite stimulating to the eye!  At first it was quite overwhelming – but it grew on me, and several of us enjoyed a very relaxing couple of hours hanging out, chatting, drinking a pint from the tapped keg in the “convenience room”.

To top it all off – I have both cell service and internet ! Yahoo.  Well, at least for now…imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

 

 

Day 21 – “Moon Dance” Van Morrison

Rest day in Ft. Davis Enjoyed a day away from the bike. Just what I needed both physically and mentally We are staying at the Indian Lodge located within the Davis Mountains State Park.  The property was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1933. It is a 39 room property with a restaurant. Rooms are comfortable furnished in a rustic motif – clean, sparse and bright. The bed is a dream after a couple of previous stays. Took an an excursion over to the McDonald Observatory and enjoyed learning about the work they do. And fun fact, the observatory was built here because it is the darkest place in the US, which makes the viewing of the night sky optimal.  I walked around a bit tonight and just looked up at the clear and bright sky. Without competing with the lights from a city or pollution, you feel as though you could reach up and grab a handful.   Another reminder to look up and enjoy the view.   Tomorrow starts a series of 7 days of riding. I am off to bed and ready to roll out in the morning.

 

oh and we are already over 1000 miles!

 

Day 20- “You’ve Got a Friend” James Taylor

Van Horn to Ft. Davis, TX

88 miles
A long ride today with many of the challenges of the previous couple of days – all combined into one. The first 40 miles were on the interstate again which is far from a scenic and enjoyable trip. I mentioned previously that the speed limit is 80 and the trucks are at least 2 to 1. And some of those bad boys are big, and loud and fast. You shudder as they go past you.

I was anxious to get off of there – but as always you have to be careful what you wish for. While on the interstate the winds were favorable, and we were able to make good time. Arriving at mile 40 we took a right off the I-10, and lunch was set up at mile 48. Sounded simple enough. Until the right hand turn proved to be full of crosswinds and headwinds…oh and our first introduction to Texas chip seal road surface. Chip seal is two handfuls of gravel to one handful of tar. Bumpy, jostling and slows you down more (if that is even possible). The chip seal offers resistance, or drag on your tires. I am rolling with Continental Gatorskins which are heavier than the typical road bike tires, so I already had a bit of drag. For the first few miles you frequently stopped to see if you had a flat tire.

Back to lunch – 8 miles – should be there in no time– took me well over an hour to get there – as my legs felt like lead. We were on day 6 of a tough string of days-I did not have much left in the tank. Hmm, if blood doping was an option, I may have considered it… At lunch I seriously considered bagging it for the day as we still had 40+ miles to go. But… my trusty cycling buddy Tanya, was eager to go and off we went. The ride was very scenic, on a very quiet road. So quiet that for nearly 40 miles I believe a total of 5 cars went by us – and four were in the opposite direction. It was nice not to have traffic, but at times the remoteness, the absolute nothingness closed in on you and you felt somewhat deserted. The winds did not quit for many miles. And neither did we. When I calculated the time it would take to get to our destination based on our current speed – I was happy that we had moved into central time zone and that it was daylight until 8! Ultimately we did not need that much time – but lets just say that we arrived for the second night in a row right as dinner was being served.

I am dedicating today’s blog to my cycling buddy, Tanya – without her today, I would not have made it. At mile 62 we had 15 miles of “hard climbing” to do, and I had been out of gas at mile 48. But we did it, she believed in me, she challenged me, and we did it together. One mile at a time. Thank you Tanya.

It also reminded me of how valuable it is to have people that believe in you, that help you to be better than you thought you can, to help you dig deep when you have nothing, and to make you laugh when you are on the verge of tears. I am so very fortunate to have friends like these in my life. And I thank all of you! It really is better when you do not have to go it alone!

We are staying at the Indian Lodge located in the Davis Mountains. I am looking forward to my rest day, and am going to head over to the McDonald Observatory.

Note- internet and cell connections are often weak ( how I do miss my hi-speed internet…) I will get pics up when I can.

-K

Day 19 – “I Wanna Go Back” Eddie Money

Ft. Hancock to Van Horn, TX

74 miles — no, make that 74 brutal miles

After a restless night at the less then impressive Ft. Hancock Motel, we headed out to churn out the miles to get us across Texas.      No internet last night- I will catch up on inserting photos on my rest day on thursday – so check back if interested.

If yesterday was ideal, today was bad.

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The winds were the enemy today, as they battered us at every turn and mile- up to 30 mph for more than 10 hours.   I have heard winds described as “buffeting winds”, but today, they were more like waves battering the shore.  The waves of wind would come in and wash over you and and your bike. Sometimes  a crosswind, sometimes a headwind.   You are pedaling hard, but making little progress. Exhausting.

I think there were sights to see – but after the first 20 miles, I barely looked up.  Early on we did see wonderful pastures filled with horses, and cattle.  The farms/ranches are quite expansive, and I wonder what it would be like to be responsible for all that land!

Traveled a bit on the I-10 again.  Um, the speed limit was 80.  Nothing like a gajillion  huge trucks whizzing by you at 80.  It makes you feel so small at times.

The women on this trip are all experienced riders, many of them very strong.  You know it is a tough day when several decide to jump in the van to get off the road.  A decision which they do not make lightly. I made it today, we shall see about tomorrow!

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Short blog tonight, as tomorrow looks to be another challenging day.  I had hoped Emory Pass would be my last stretch day – but it looks like tomorrow will have a little bit of everything -90 miles, 15+ miles of climbing, Interstate/Highway riding– let’s hope that the winds were blown out of town with the rain storm that arrived at dinner.

Oh- how I wanna go back to yesterday!!

On to Ft. Davis!

Good night everyone!

Day 18 – “Just what I needed” Cars

El Paso to Ft. Hancock 52 miles

Yesterday we enjoyed a Sunday ride through the quiet, sleepy countryside as we headed to El Paso. Traffic was light for the first 40 miles, and then we had to pay attention as we got into urban riding mode. El Paso is not quite as bike friendly as some of the other areas that we have travelled through. Lots of beeping at us, and not in a “just to let you know I am here” mode.

Notable about our arrival into Texas, was that it was a non event. There was not a Welcome to Texas sign anywhere! My official welcome occurred at mile 40 at McDonald’s. We enjoyed another Margarita party to celebrate crossing into Texas. It will be several weeks before we get another celebration.

Today, we headed out a bit later than usual to avoid as much of the Monday morning traffic as possible. Our ride today was just over 50 miles. Typically, I grow concerned when we have a lower mileage day on the cue sheet. These shorter days have translated into many challenging “terrain features”‘ aka hills, climbs etc. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that their was not any surprises in store. The ride was quite pleasant-perfect weather, manageable winds, even favorable at times, and a few sights to see. We even came across a flock of goats being herded across the road! That was quite a sight.

The highlight was heading out on the Mission Trail where we visited two historic mission churches. The first was closed when we arrived, beautiful and pristine from the outside, we were curious as to what it looked like inside. A couple of our riders went over to the mission office and were able to convince them to open up for us. I have faith, but I would not classify myself as “overly, or overtly” religious, but I am always moved when I enter into such places of religion and reverence. The women from the office opened the church for us, and in doing so, they stopped at each alter and gave thanksgiving as if it was the first time they entered. I have been fortunate to have travelled to the Vatican to St. Peter’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey in London, and to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Each of these so grand, and rich in art and religious artifacts. But here in the small mission church, I found myself taken by the simplicity of the architecture, and of the church itself. In the second Mission church, the alter had simple clay pots around it. A reminder to enjoy the simple things, not just the popular, more grand ones.

Today was the first day that I felt as though I was riding to enjoy the day, not to just get through another challenge, or tick off many miles to move us through the next state.

The other reason that we had a relaxing riding day, is that our destination for the night is the small village of Ft. Hancock and the Ft. Hancock Motel. Not much here, a place to stop on the way to somewhere else. We are very close to the Mexican border and have seen an increase in the number of Border Patrol vehicles. Many of these SUV’s are pulling ATV’s which they use to patrol off-road. Two more days before our rest day in Ft. Davis. Each day getting a bit longer, and a bit more challenging.

But I will not think about them until tomorrow, as today was just what I needed.

Day 17 “Should have been a Cowboy” Toby Keith

Special dedication of today’s blog to my friend, Canaan.

As I mentioned the other day, that I wanted to share a bit about Canaan on this special, and difficult day, as well as share my reasons for selecting Make-A-Wish as my charity partner.

My selection of Make-A-Wish as my charity was based on two factors:

First, I wanted a charity that would be able to use the funds raised in a meaningful, impactful and immediate manner. Second, I was personally familiar with the wonderful experience of the Bernier Family with Make-A-Wish when they shared in Canaan’s Wish

Canaan’s Wish.

Canaan loved and aspired to live the Cowboy Way. His wish was to go to a working ranch and work alongside the ranch hands and cowboys. He was clear, that it had to be a “working” ranch and not a dude ranch and if it had a creek- all the better. Make-A-Wish created an experience for Canaan and the family that included a stay at a working ranch in Roswell, New Mexico which included cowboys, horses, manure and campfires. A trip to the town of Moriarty, New Mexico found the family as honored (and only) guests of a rodeo put on by kids from the local high school. Lots of wonderful events, thoughtfully put together and generously given to the family.

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The Wish experience was so much more than the actual wish trip. The family was able to share together in a positive experience during a difficult time which created new memories and moments that have extended long beyond the Wish.

The Bernier Family was not the only ones that benefited from this special trip.  The impact of Canaan’s wish was felt throughout a community.   Six months after Canaan passed, the Mayor and townspeople of Moriarty, NM took the time to honor and remember the Little Cowboy at a special memorial dedication at the local rodeo ring.   A moving and generous experience for all

Thank you to Make-A-Wish, and to all of the Wish Granters, individuals and businesses that donate in-kind services, money and time.

The last several days in New Mexico have reminded me of the beauty and vastness of this wonderful state and the hard working cowboys that learn to rope and ride.

Today was a 60 mile day from Las Cruces to El Paso, TX. As we rolled out of NM, we traveled through many more pecan orchards, tilled fields, and new today we saw several vineyards.  Too early for blooms – but I can imagine how beautiful it must be.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and to travel with me as I cross the Southern Tier.  I appreciate the incredible support and generosity of friends, family, colleagues and strangers.   I ask that if you have thought about  donating to Make-A-Wish , I ask that you do so in honor of Canaan, and help fulfill a wish for a deserving wish child and their family.   No donation is too small. You can find the link at the top of the page.

Thank you,

Karen

Day 16 – “Roll Me Away” Bob Seger

Kingston to Las Cruces, NM

88 miles – but I missed the turn for the hotel and overshot it. So total for today was 90!

Last night we stayed at the very funky Black Range Lodge in Kingston NM.  This is a very eclectic B & B.  as we were in a pretty remote area there were not a lot of lodging choices.  It was fun to stay in such a different place. Check out the website if you are curious http://www.blackrangelodge.com.

upon arrival at the lodge, we were greeted by the smell of a turkey dinner in oven. We had a wonderful dinner and breakfast before we headed out.

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A shout out to Allison B, who provided me with a wee nip of Fireball Whiskey to be used as required- medicinal purposes, emergency or as a celebration. When I got to my room (which had a lovely balcony). I decided that I needed the shot for all three reasons.  imageimage

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Perfect!

Todays ride was a mix of terrain – an early 8 mile descent from hotel, a 3 mile climb , miles of rollers, a brief tailwind, a crosswind, a headwind, and miles of flats.   A little bit of everything.  New Mexico is a beautiful, and we headed closer to Las Cruces, the terrain turning into agricultural and cattle areas.  We had two large steers just standing on opposite sides of the road watching us with disinterest as we whizzed past them.

We passed many pecan orchards – miles and miles and miles of them.  Interesting that they flood the section of trees to water them.

 

Cannot believe that we will be in Texas tomorrow!  It will take us 20 days to traverse Texas!

Thank you for your support and encouragement over the last few weeks – I appreciate all of the emails, comments and texts!

-K

“Stood Alone on a mountain top,

Starin’ out at the great divide

I could go east, I could go west,

It was all up to me to decide

Just then I saw a young hawk flyin’

And my soul began to rise

And pretty soon

My Heart was singin’

Roll, roll me away

I’m gonna roll me away tonight

Gotta keep rollin, gotta keep ridin’,

Keep searchin’ till I find what’s right

And as the sunset faded

I spoke to the faintest first starlight

And I said next time

Next time

We’ll get it right…

Day 15 – “Stronger (What doesn’t kill you)” Kelly Clarkson

Silver City, NM to Kingston, NM

47 miles

Emory Pass climb, highest point on our Southern Tier journey.  8228 ft

Did it! Wow what a day. Beyond exhausted.

So thankful for our rest day yesterday as refreshed my legs, and gave me the strength that I needed to make it through today.

The ride today was beautiful, so although it was a hard climb – the road to and up Emory Pass was terrific.

Along the way we passed a rock structure called the Kneeling Nun, and another copper mine.

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The first 22 miles had a few small climbs and rollers, then we had a 18 mile climb up through the Gila Forest and Emory Pass .  All that hard work was rewarded with an 8 miles descent.

During the early part of the day, I hit a downhill at 40 mph.  This was a long but straight  downhill.  It is exhilarating, until you come to a stop and and have to start climbing up again. 5 miles from the top, my legs were jello and I was working hard to move the pedals.  I was stopping frequently only for a minute or so to try and find life in my legs.  I walked for about a half mile in total- this helped to use different muscles for a bit and to make sure my brain and legs were still communicating.  Breathing was getting a bit harder as we were nearly at 8000 feet.  I have not had any problems before, but I was exerting myself a bit – and my lungs were in need of more air.  A mile and a half before the top the SAG swung down to see how we were doing.  I have gave them the thumbs up that I was going to get to the top.  Somehow.  Nancy the SAG driver turned around, and shouted that i only had a mile to go and she would be there when I got to the top.

By this point I was calling on my angels and all heavenly bodies as well as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to help me get to the top.   For hours I was churning at 3-4 mph – but this last mile, somehow a slight tailwind rose up and I was moving at 5.  The final climb was torturous for me, and I was alternating between breathing and weeping.  By the time I made the final few feet to where Nancy was parked (and she and two other riders where cheering me on and waving me up) I was at full blown sobbing.  Relief, exhaustion, and a flood of other emotions washed over me.

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We took a few pics, walked up to the scenic vista and I took a deep breathe as I looked across the vast and  beautiful New Mexico landscape.    I took a few minutes, and then started my descent down.  The road was twisty and had lots of turns, no guardrail and a deep canyon to the side.  The good news was there was little or no traffic- Once the SAG vehicle passed me – I was the only person on the road.

Challenging, but fulfilling day.

Time to log off and get to bed. 88 miles tomorrow