Day 51: Silver City to High Lonesome Campsite - 35 miles

I awoke late after an excellent sleep. Much as my tent and thermarest mat are comfortable, they pale in comparison to a real bed and a proper pillow. It's going to be good to finish up and be through with 'roughing' it.

After another shower and shave I repacked my gear. When I got to the hotel yesterday I noticed that both my front panniers have now failed so I made further repairs with electrical tape and cable ties. They will get me to the border but just to be sure I've shifted much of the load to my rear panniers.

The motel had a 'deluxe continental breakfast' but obviously they have never been to Europe. It consisted of donuts, sugar laden cereal, coffee and fake juice. Since I was running a bit late I didn't have time for a proper breakfast so I grabbed a donut and a cup of juice. I don't know how people can eat these things regularly.

I finished packing and was out the door by 09:20. I headed back out of town to the church and arrived about 10 minutes after they had started Sabbath School. I parked my bike outside the entrance and grabbing my Bible went in. I was warmly welcomed by two women. The church was very modern and in excellent condition. There were about two dozen people, mainly retired but a few in their 40's-50's. It transpired that many of the youth had recently moved away to university.

I enjoyed the Sabbath School Bible study. Before church started a number of the members came over to welcome me and chat. They were all very friendly. The pastor took an excellent and thought provoking service about being the children of God. It was great to see someone so enthusiastic for God. He reminded me of our former pastor in New Zealand John Denne.

They invited me to stay for lunch after the service which was great. It was wonderful to have such delicious vegetarian food and such good company. I had a long talk with David who was a lawyer for the New Mexico youth and children's services. He was very interesting and even a member of the Green party. I was surprised when he said that genetic engineering was not an issue in America; in New Zealand that is the reason d'etre for the Green Party and they are implacibly opposed to the introduction of GE crops to New Zealand.

After lunch I headed off back into Silver City. I only had a 30+ mile cycle to do so there was no rush. The previous evening I had seen some of the beautiful Victorian buildings and I wanted to look around a bit more before heading out.

Silver City has an interesting history. Given the name, it was obviously built on mining but unlike many other mining towns, it was built with an eye to permanence. I wandered into the town museum and this showed how many of the buildings were built of brick. They had early electric and telephone services as well as a water works. I was impressed by some of the buildings they had but many were damaged or undermined in some bad floods that hit the town around the turn of the century. To solve the problem they transformed its Main Street into the "Big Ditch" which was a 35-50 foot deep trench. Today, it is still there and lined with trees making it almost a park, albeit a very deep one.

After silver prices collapsed the city made itself into a tuberculosis resort, the dry climate (floods notwithstanding) ideal for sufferers of this disease. Then copper became king, and continues to be important today.

Among its more famous locals was the outlaw 'Billy the Kid'. He committed his first crime here (robbing a Chinese laundry) and was arrested by Pat Garrett. Billy escaped from jail by climbing up the chimney and fled to Arizona where he killed his first man. Eventually returning to New Mexico, he was eventually killed by Pat Garrett.

While at the museum I met an indian man who asked if I knew the origin of the name Geronimo. He explained that it is Spanish for Jerome and that when Geronimo was leading a raid on some Mexicans they called for help from St. Jerome. The other Apache thought they were praising their leader so they took to calling him Geronimo. The fellow also said that the Apache were'nt always warlike. They were farmers pushed into war by the invasion of their lands by the europeans. I could believe it after what I've seen and read elsewhere on this trip.

It was getting late so I headed out on my way south. The route took me along Highway 90 and the elevation profile showed that it was downhill all the way. Ha! There was about a 3-4 mile climb from Silver City and then some rolling terrain. It wasn't too difficult, just depressing when one expects a downhill run.

There was a huge mine at Tyrone which had an interesting history. When they first opened the mine they built a very opulent town to house the workers. They had statues, marble in the railway station, a large department store, etc. The photos of the place were really impressive. Unfortunately, when they exhausted the initial supplies they found that the town was right on top of where they needed to do open pit mining. So bye bye town.

About 6 miles past Tyrone I turned off the highway towards Separ. The guidebook described it as a "sandy, smooth surfaced ... which begins winding in and out of a desert-canyon wash". Initially I thought that all my Christmas' had come at once. The road was firm with only a light dusting of sand on it and it was easy to travel at 13 mph. Then I came around a corner and hit some of the sand from the streams washing across the road. My speed dropped and I found it difficult to maintain control as my bike sunk into the sand.

The pattern for handling these washes was to get up as much speed as possible and aim the bike straight through them; holding onto the steering as best one can to avoid any turning of the front wheel lest one get stuck in the sand. That still happened, and I had to often push the bike out of the sand wash. There was one particularly tretcherous one which was very deep and it actually threw me off my bike. Fortunately, the landing was soft (except to my pride) but I was picking sand out of my gloves, shorts, shoes etc. for some time after this one. The photo below shows my poor bike in this sand trap.


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The sand traps notwithstanding, the cycling was great. Although the skies were very overcast, there was little wind and overall the road was quite good. The desert stretched off as far as I could see and I expected that this would be the pattern for the next few days.


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The route took me up to the Continental Divide and the photo below was taken at the approximate location of the divide. This was crossing about #31 for me but like most of the crossings in New Mexico, it was no big deal. After this photo was taken the road followed the divide for several miles.


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The guidebook recommended that I camp "somewhere in here" and after reaching a crossroad I decided that this was a good location. It was very exposed, but that would be the case no matter where I stopped as I was in an open desert area with only a few small scrub trees around.

A checked the area for cactus -- they can be quite lethal on tyres -- and then pitched my tent. I had dinner from a tin watching the sunset on mountains in the distance. They were pink and partially wrapped in clouds. It was wonderful. I was a million miles from nowhere and it was just great.

After retiring I listened to my radio and heard about this terrible terrorist attack in Bali where almost 200 tourists were blown up and hundreds more injured. How tragic and unnecessary. Such suffering was so far from the tranquil holiday that I was having in the middle of nowhere and it made me appreciate once more the wonderful life that I've had so far; the places seen, people met and experiences experienced. Life is great, but so fragile ...

On to the next day ...

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