Day 53: High Lonesome Campsite to Antelope Wells - 94 miles

I woke early and was pleased to find that the strong winds were gone. There was still a breeze, but it was nothing compared to what had been blowing yesterday. It was still overcast but as soon as the sun began to lighten the sky I was out of the tent and broke camp, starting my cycling before 08:00.

The cycling was similar to two days ago, except the land was getting flatter so there was even less to look at. In fact, it got to the point where there were not even any cactus around. Just mile upon mile of scrubland.



What I did have was a very bumpy ride. In fact, after only a few miles I heard a crash and stopped thinking that one of my spare water bottles had fallen off a pannier. Worse. The steel waterbottle cage from my bike had failed and most of it, along with the water bottle, was lying in the road. Pretty amazing since it was new when the trip started. I retrieved the bottle and saw that it was damaged beyond repair but fortunately the water was largely intact -- I was getting low and had 20+ miles to cover. I transferred the water to my hydration pack and then added the bottle and cage to my rubbish bag. This trip has been mighty hard on my gear (and myself).

There were a lot of the sand traps created by streams crossing the road. I used my previous tactic of going at them as fast as I could and steering straight, shifting my weight to the rear. I still got struck at times and had to push my bike through.

After one particulary bumpy section one of my rear panniers fell off. When it fell off a short time later I examined it and found that the hook which held the pannier to the frame was no longer shaped like an inverted 'J', it was now an 'L' and was barely able to hold onto the rack. I was worried about this and as I cycled on I came up with a solution: a trusty plastic cable tie ensured that it would stay on.

I needed to lean my bike on something to work on the pannier but there was nothing at all around. However, I soon came to a cattle crossing which had a fence post so I decided to stop there as it was my only chance. I made the mistake of not dismounting before the cattle guard but stopping on the guard and getting off the bike. My right foot missed the metal grate (or slipped) and I dropped down bashing my chest on the bike as I dropped. Fortunately my left foot stayed where it was so I was saved from some serious damage to a rather important part of my anatomy. I was also lucky that it was my right foot that went through the grate since my left knee was able to take the strain. I've had four knee operations on my right knee and am 20% disabled. Had it been the other way around my trip would have ended there and then.

Anyway, nursing a sore chest and a few scrapes on my leg, and a battered ego -- it was such a dumb thing to do -- I fixed my bike and was soon off again. The route was pretty easy to follow and there was even the occassional home made sign pointing me in the right direction.



I made good time but just outside of Separ I hit the largest sand trap of the trip, probably 100+ metres long. Bother. I could see the Interstate ahead of me but I had to push my bike through this sand. It was getting tedious but at least the end was near; I would soon be on pavement.

Separ was listed as having a cafe and mini-mart so I was looking forward to some refreshments. Unfortunately, both were history so my only option was a rustic looking shop at the petrol station which was the only business in town. In fact the town was the petrol station, there was nothing else. Their fare consisted of junk food but I was able to find a piece of banana bread and I also got a Gatorade to drink.

I wandered around the shop while havng my refreshments. It seems as though fireworks were very popular here as there was a huge array of pyrotechnics available. They also had the full gammut of tourist kitsch, ranging from T-shirts to ashtrays, hats and 'souveniers' which were amazing. Amazing insofar as how/why anyone would (a) make such things; (b) that people from stores would buy them for resale; and, (c) customers may actually buy them. I mean what would one do with a wooden tube painted red with TNT on it and a piece of wire sticking out the back. Scare the wife? End of diatribe ...

As I was leaving I noticed that they had discount hotel room coupon books. These are a wonderful invention (and available at They give discounts at hotels and motels all over the USA. I collected on for El Paso and it was to let me only pay $22 per night for a very acceptable room.

It was warming up slightly so I removed a few layers. While I was packing my bike to head off two women drove up and asked if I was waiting for two cyclists coming from the west. No I said, I've come from the north. They said 'good thing since they appeared to be having problems'. I thought 'why then didn't you stop and offer assistance', but managed to be polite. Perhaps it was because they were not in a pickup truck ...

The route headed east from Separ parallel to the Interstate along the old frontal road. Initially it had a badly cracked old pavement but soon it turned to an unsealed road. I passed the remnants of what was once a small community but now consisted of abandoned buildings and homes. With the desert on one side and the Interstate on the other, I focused most of my attention on the traffic. I hadn't seen so many cars for a while; with the roads I've been on pickup trucks and SUV's have predominated. There was also a huge number of tractor trailer trucks carrying all sorts of products. They really seem to be the backbone of transport in America. There was also a train track next to the interstate and I saw several trains pass in a short time, so at least in this part of the America freight trains are also holding their own.Not so for passenger trains, and I have not seen a single one my entire trip.

I had an abominable headwind for the cycle next to the Interstate, but as it was only for about 10 miles I didn't mind as it meant that it would at least be a side wind when I turned south towards Mexico. I was pleased when I saw the sign below as it not only marked the end of my unsealed pavement, but the beginning of the end of my trip. For the first time Antelope Wells was signposted.



I turned south onto Highway 146 and started my 20 mile run to Hachita. As the photo below shows, it was not the most exciting terrain, even for someone who likes desert cycling! There was virtually no traffic so it was very peaceful cycling. I really appreciated being back on a paved road again and from here on in the unsealed pavements were behind me. Yipee!



I had my last Continental Divide crossing of the trip and got the photo below. I must admit that after the mountain crossings these desert crossings are quite an anti-climax. The location must only be approximate as it was so flat there was no way of confirming the high point.



I reached Hachita after having travelled 46 miles and it was fortunately a bit better equipped than Separ. There was a cafe and a small mini-mart. I went to the cafe for a bite to eat and was welcomed by the owner. There was, of course, not much choice for a vegetarian so I had to settle for a grilled cheese sandwich. I'm really looking forward to my wife Lis' cooking.

When Edna saw I was on a bicycle she whipped out two journals for me to look at. They had comments from various cyclists and hikers over the last two years! I could relate to many of the comments and had encountered most of the problems that were mentioned (except the "one eyed trouser snakes" that three women complained of). The recurring theme was (a) it was a fantastic trip and worth doing; (b) it was hard on the body and the bike; and (c) glad that it was almost over. I saw how two guys had done the trip in around 30 days UNSUPPORTED. Incredible, I don't know how they did it. That works out at about 80 miles per day for a month. Those distances are doable on pavement, but to cover them on this route takes a superhuman effort.

I made a small contribution to the journal and told Edna to expect at least five more people this year when she commented it was getting late in the season to be doing the trip.After finishing lunch she pointed out the water tap where I could recharge my bottles and the payphone which I used to call my parents and my staff in New Zealand. After getting a few small things at the mini-mart (again, not much for vegetarians who aren't into junk food) I cycled off towards Antelope Wells. I had planned on stopping in Hachita but it was only 14:00 and the afternoon was perfect for cycling; not a breath of wind. I felt good and wanted to take advantage of the conditions.

I turned south towards Antelope Wells and had another run through the desert. The road took me between the little and big hatchet mountains, and the desert stretched as far as the eye could see.



When I rounded a corner I saw a bird on the road. It was a roadrunner! Unlike the cartoons I couldn't see Wile E. Coyote chasing after the bird. It is interesting how our perspectives are shaped by images. The bird was a lot smaller than the cartoon version (which is the same size as a coyote) and it moved very slowly. Wile E. Coyote would have no problems catching this roadrunner.

I thought back to the early time in my marriage when, inspired by Wile E. Coyote, I created the 'Acme Cat Trap' to catch a neighbourhood stray cat. It consisted of a box which I put on an angle and a stick connected to a string to pull out and drop the box on the cat. I put some cat food in the corner to tempt it in. Lis, the cat authority, said that no cat would go near such a thing. Well, the cat came to the box and went in to get the bait but something happened to scare it so it ran before I could drop the trap. At least Lis was proved wrong about no self-respecting cat going near my trap.

At one point I passed a stand of huge cactus. That, along with scrub grass, seemed to be the only thing that could grow in the area.



There was little sign of any development in the area, and I passed what looked at one point to have been a thriving farm but which was now abandoned. However, the entire area was fenced off and so it seems that there are some farms in the area that are still operating. At least they had many 'No Trespassing' signs to keep cyclists and other miscreants out. I passed a few head of cattle who looked surprisingly healthy. They must run about 1 cow per 1,000 acres around here. There were also signs for buffalo, but I unfortunately didn't see any.

There were signs giving the distance to the border post and these made it clear that one had to arrive between 08:00 and 16:00. Well, there was no way I would be there before closing but that didn't worry me. I was planning on camping out overnight anyway and I had enough water to last until the morning. I was pleased when I reached them about 17:30 and, sure enough, the gates were closed.



The gate had signs saying restricted area and no admittance so I parked my bike just outside the compound by a flat area that was suitable for camping. My activity set off a bunch of dogs on the compound who started barking like mad and came running towards me. Since the tails were wagging even more than they barked I wasn't worried and two of them came over for some attention which I happily gave them.

I noticed that a uniformed customs officer was eyeing me from the other side of the fence so I wandered over to chat with him. Morris was very taciturn, at least initially, but I guess that comes with the job of being in an isolated post where there is the potential of danger from drug runners and people smugglers. We talked about a range of things and he was particularly interested in New Zealand. A keen motorcyclist, he agreed with me that two wheels are the best way to see America, although we differed on the mode of propulsion. He asked if I was planning on camping here and said it was not very safe. I pointed out that it was probably safer here than anywhere else along the road and he agreed. After telling me that there would be patrols leaving during the night he wished me well and returned to his duty.

After pitching my tent I had dinner to a lovely sunset. One of my last ones of the trip, at least in the desert. It was great to have made it this far and after getting my photos tomorrow I'll need to make my way to El Paso.


On to the next day ...

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