Day 55: Columbus to El Paso - 70 miles

This is it... the final day of my adventure, October 16, 2002. It was just under two months agon on 19 August that Sean and I were in Kalispell excited, and somewhat daunted, at the prospect of trying to cycle some 2,500 miles along the Rocky Mountains. Having reached my goal of Mexico two days ago, all that remained was to get to El Paso where I would catch a flight.

I was treated to an intense lightening storm during the night, I guess it was one way of saying goodbye. Keeping up with tradition, the El Paso radio station called for a clear night which it was, once the hour plus of lightening and rain stopped. Being in a campground I felt much more secure than at other times during the trip. Then again, it would be pretty bad luck to get zapped on one's final night!

In the morning my tent was soaked from the rain. I had a long ride ahead of me so I was up and at it quite early and packed the tent wet. I would have the opportunity to dry it out later. I gave some food that I no longer needed to David and Beth along with my bear spray. I'd have liked to keep it for another time (particularly since it cost $USD 30, but I didn't think that the airport security would be very understanding of my need to carry anti-grizzly spray on an airplane.

At 08:30 I cycled over to the shop in town in the vain hope of finding something to eat. Beth gave me a pear and a banana which were a good start. To these I added two more energy bars and a chocolate chip cookie. I was right out of food now so there wasn't a lot to get me 70 miles to El Paso. However, I was not overly worried as I was at least confident of finding something in El Paso and I can ignore hunger to a good degree.

There was a very mild headwind but othewise it was a good day for cycling. The temperature was low and it was overcast. In fact for the first 20 miles I wore my jacket and long trousers.

The cycling was more of the same ... desert stretching off forever. It was to be like this the entire way, save for a couple of hills which broke the monotony.



I think that I've had enough of desert cycling for a while since I found it difficult to keep myself amused. I measured the distances between the mileposts and found that they were all exactly one mile apart, except number 92 which was out by 0.15 miles. Confusingly, there were two paint marks on the pavement; one at the milepost and one about 0.1 miles further on. I saw a work crew and stopped to tell them that number 92 was out. They said bother. They had put them in once and then had to redo it again when the measured it accurately with a trip meter - hence the two paint marks. I suspect that someone knocked over the marker and a crew put it back in the wrong place. They were laying phone cables next to the road so they were probably the culpret. Quality control of highway referencing is a problem everywhere ... even in New Zealand. Since yesterday my odometer was 1% different to the mileposts, and today it was generally spot on, this means that all the mileposts to Antelope Wells were out by 1%. At least it wasn't my bike.

I also conducted a non-scientific experiment into the friendliness of New Mexico drivers. Of a sample of 30 drivers 26 waved back to me and 4 didn't. The ones who always waved were truck and motorcycle drivers. The stuck up ones were drivers of expensi ve vehicles like Mercedes. Hey, when one has so many miles of desert one has to find something to do!

I stopped at 40 miles and had a meal break. One unripe pear; one energy bar and a chocolate chip cookie. Not much but it was enough to keep me going. I parked my bike against a sign and reflected what a faithful companion it has been, in spite of the problems I've had on this trip. It has seen me from California to Maine; Canada to Mexico. I hope that we have many more miles together ...



The best thing about being half way is that one can then count down the miles to the destination. It seems to make the trip pass more quickly. In the distance I saw some big mountains ahead but, being the desert, they didn't come closer as fast as I thought they should given my 14 mph speed.



My map of New Mexico showed the road I was on intersecting with one that would take me to El Paso. However, when I got to my first intersection in 60 miles I found that the road turned into a track. Definitely not the way I wanted to go. As I stood straddling my bicycle perplexed by the map, a car went to turn on the road so I flagged them down. It was a border officer who said "I thought you looked like you needed help". I enquired about getting to El Paso and he first suggested that I go 10 miles to the Interstate. No thanks, I'm on a bicycle. He then gave me excellent directions for back roads.

I had now done over 60 miles and was feeling like a calorie stop. It was quite warm and I was fantasising about ice cream when I saw what I thought was a mirage - a Dairy Queen. It wasn't a mirage so I went in and had a break. They were all bedecked for haloween which is in two weeks time. I find the images of ghosts, werewolves, and other monsters offputting. I'm glad that we don't have this in New Zealand.

I turned onto 'Country Club Road' and after stopping at a bank to get some cash continued towards El Paso. Even though we were within the urban fringe, they still had horses and stables which was very pleasant. There were also very massive houses lining the road, and trees! Soon I was greated with the sign below heralding my arrival in El Paso.



As I followed the road into town it was really disconcerting to be among traffic again. I've been so spoiled for the last two months. I had to really concentrate on following a narrow, straight line close to the road's edge. Quite different to being able to go wherever I wanted to without worrying about becoming road kill.

I saw a sign for a motel in my coupon book and happily checked in for the princely sum of $22 per night. Great deal. I enjoyed my first shower in 5 days and a change of clothes. It was then time to call my wife and answer my 50+ 'urgent' e-mails. Tomorrow I'll do laundry, clean my bike and camping gear, and see a bit of El Paso and probably go across into Mexico for a visit.

So ends another great trip through a great country.

On to the next day ...

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