April 8, 2001 - El Paso, TX 109.7m*

As some of you have pointed out, I left off the map yesterday. It wont happen again. Heres the map for today, kind of. (for best viewing, set view to Normal)

Today was Bryans 3rd and last day of the ride. We had a big day, and went all the way to Deming, NM yesterday (where the 1 is). We could have gone farther, but the next anything was in Las Cruces, 52 miles away. Bryan needed to rent a car to drive back to Tucson, so we planned on leaving early (6AM) to get to El Paso (105 miles away) early, so he could make the drive at a reasonable hour. We thought we would make El Paso by 3PM or so.

It was bitterly cold (and dark) so we had breakfast and went back to our rooms until 7:30AM. The sun was up, but it was still only 41 degrees. Bundled as much as we could, we set out across the barren, high desert. 8 miles out, Bryan got a flat tire.

Given supplies and training, this was no big deal.

The day before, you might say yesterday, in the shade under the every 25 miles or so bridge over the interstate, we came upon a guy on a mountain bike and chatted with him a bit. He is the only other cross country (distance) rider we or I have seen. He had left Tucson, on his way to Tulsa, to visit his son. He was heavily loaded, on a mountain bike, and said he tried to do 100 miles a day, mostly camping out. 40 miles west of Deming, we blew by, certain never to seem him again. I regretted missing the opportunity to memorialize the event.

Sometime after the tire incident, I had gotten a bit ahead of Bryan, and noticed a dot in the distance. Took the speed up to around 20, and right before the end of the long emptiness to Las Cruces guess who was ahead of us.

I rode with Carl for a few miles and chatted about our biking experiences. Among other things, apparently you dont need a helmet at maximum speeds of 12mph. (Ive gotten to 39.9)We stopped (for me after 47 miles) for the first real break of the day. Carl went for morning coffee. I went for Gatorade. Coming out of the gas station, I saw Bryan approaching. He didnt even pause. He was going for the mythical Las Cruces downhill.

(sidebar) The Las Cruces downhill is a major disappointment. You want short steep uphills, or long slight ones, but on downhills, long slight is wonderful. Las Cruces is short step, over in a few minutes. Unsustaining, unsatisfying, slightly dangerous and a waste of good time and enerty.

Lunch at Burger King at Las Cruces. Never really saw the town.

Heading south on 28, we came to the first real change in scenery I had seen in 5 days. Pecan groves. Beautiful.

We had crossed the Rio Grande, 3 times.

The usual (in the desert, where anything is growing, anyway) irrigation thing was happening. (If this river looks like a canal, I bet it isnt accidental. Muddy water.)

What the picture doesnt show is the incredible wind. In our faces for hours.

We couldnt get above 12mph, and averaged less than 10, while pedaling, from around 11am on. But we made it to Texas.

Where Bryan demonstrated he still had some arm left. About 500 feet up the road, across the street, at the Diamond Shamrock station, in Anthony,TX (on the map) at 4pm, 81 miles into the day, he called a taxi to take him to the car rental to head home. I took his bike seat (gel vs. racing, like sitting on a cloud after 7 days) and one of his water bottle cages (mine broke the day before.) Bye Bryan. Thanks for riding with me!

On to El Paso, no let up in the wind. (On AOL they have a windy icon) Ive never seen before. The wind for tomorrow is even way more interesting (see below.)

The scenery around the sign is indicative of what I saw of heading into the city, Back to a kind of civilization I havent seen in a week.

US85 into the city went through miles of open pit mines (literally), franchise land (like above), Mexican small business establishments, industrial wasteland.. ugly, ugly and unsafe. Pawn shops, check cashing services, bail-bond services, even Rent a Tire, rent to own car tires and wheels.

Alex (wonderful daughter, should be subject of a book) is going to be on a 4 week bus tour through the west with about dozens of other 15 or so year olds this summer. I knew she was staying at the Cliff Inn in El Paso, considered staying there, but had to take a picture of the place and view for her.

Its literally on a Cliff. (close your eyes for a moment here) A real bitch to get up to on a bike. Great views, but I had to go a bit father, and ended up at the Marriott by the El Paso airport, where I am now typing this.

I meet a few interesting people each day. Typically I take my computer to the restaurant as a dinner companion, to get a start on this. A conversation opener.

Regardless of what his name badge says, this is Ricardo, who served me dinner tonight. Thanks Ricardo.

Tomorrow may be among the most interesting days of the trip.This is the actual online weather report for Van Horn TX, where Im headed, for tomorrow. I dont even know if you can stand in this much wind, much less ride a bike. Ill let you know.

HIGH WIND WATCH TUESDAY AFTERNOON AND EVENING

Monday Night: Partly cloudy and windy. Low 54. Winds W to SW 15 to 20 mph.

Tuesday Daytime: Variably cloudy and very windy. High 72. Winds W to SW 50 to 60 mph..

Goodnight and sweet dreams.

PS. Forgot the educational plaque of the day. In the median of the industrial wasteland on the west side of El Paso – note the background.

Ask me sometime what bike route means to Texans, at least the politicos. When I calm down Ill tell you about the most dangerous riding of the trip.

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