Thursday, November 24, 2011

Days 16, 17 & 18: Douglas, AZ to Columbus, NM

Day 16: Monday, November 7    Douglas, AZ to Rodeo, NM   Miles:  52 (748.5)  Flats: 0, 8 (trip, total)  Elevation: 4000 ft to 4400 ft

This was a tricky stretch.  We had about 150 miles to cover so should we do it in 2 days or 3 days? We set up a meeting for Monday morning, but we decided we should at least get a head start, so we set out in the afternoon. 

Our ride to Douglas was cold, but because it was so short and all downhill, we hardly pedaled and just kept laughing at how many clothes we were wearing.  Unfortuantely, it hadn't gotten much warmer, and on this ride we realized how heavy we felt wearing pants and jackets and scarves and gloves.  Luckily the wind was on our side and we flew along, seeing a rainbow, antelope and snow in the nearby Chiricahua mountains!

Home, home on the range

The snow topped Chiricahua mountains

With about an hour left of daylight, we made it to our desire destination: Rodeo, New Mexico, population 200. Eric stopped in the grocery/cafe to ask about camping possibilities and while I watched the bikes outside, I spotted a little flyer on the community bulletin board announcing game night on the first Monday of the month.  What luck!!  The thought of Bingo and snacks with the residents of Rodeo was about all I could ask for.

That is until we started for the RV park a few blocks away and we hadn't even crossed the parking lot before a nice gentleman named Jose offered us his lawn to camp in!  He had driven by us a couple of hours before and said there were some other cyclists about 20 miles behind us.  He asked us some questions, gave us some cokes (score!) and let us get to setting up our tent and cooking our dinner.

Right as we were cleaning up the dishes and heating water to bring hot cocoa to game night, we saw three bikers ride by.  We shouted to them, but a bit too late and they didn't hear us. We assumed they were headed to set up camp at the park and we almost wished we had gone there instead of Jose's lawn.

On our first day of cycling from Oceanside to San Diego, we chatted with one other bicycle traveler and since that day, we had not seen another.  In Douglas we saw a couple packed bicycles outside the library, but we didn't see the cyclists and we thought we had lost our chance to talk to them.  And, here they were, rolling into Rodeo at dusk!

We headed over to the community center (aka pole barn), pleased to have somewhere warm to go besides our tent.  Upon entering, we saw there was quite a generational gap, but over at a table in a corner were three young folks and it turns out they were the cyclists!  And they weren't just any cyclists, but a traveling bluegrass/old time music band! 

Two of the musicos (banjo and violin) had started from Portland in early September and the ukulele met up with them two weeks later in San Francisco.  Unbeknownst to us, they had pulled into Bisbee, AZ just a few hours after us and had met up with some great folks who insisted they record an album, which they did in the restroom of the visitor's center (download it here). After Rodeo, they were headed north to Silver City and over to Las Cruces and Carlsbad Caverns, their final destination being New Orleans. 

Bingo night in Rodeo featuring New Time Country Kitchen

We swapped cycling stories and in the bingo breaks, they played some tunes.  They were offered a place to stay in the carport of the grocery store next to us and it was there that we bid them goodnight.

Day 17: Tuesday, November 8    Rodeo, NM to Hachita, NM   Miles:  51 (799.5)   Flats: 0, 8  Elevation:  4400 ft

Cold, cold, cold. After waking to ice crystals on our tent, we heard that it had gotten down to 25 degrees in Rodeo the night before.  We huddled in our tent until the cafe opened and then rushed across the street to get some coffee and breakfast.  We dined with the musical cyclists and what seemed like half of the residents of Rodeo.  This cafe was the place to be and it probably has something to do with their plate sized pancakes.

I spy with my little eye FIVE touring bicycles

After a huge meal, we broke down camp and compared the loads on our bicycles.  We hoped to ride together for a few hours, but Eric and I got antsy and bid our farewells before hitting the road.

Shortly after crossing the continental divide, we pulled into our destination of Hachita.  We rode past the only three businesses on the main road, all of which looked like they had been closed for some time, and wondered what to do.  Our map showed camping in the area, but where?  We spotted a post office sign and biked over, arriving 2 minutes before they closed.  After a short phone call, we were directed a couple more blocks over to the residence of Sam Hughes.

it's all downhill from here, right?
 Sam is a chain-smoking bachelor in his upper 80s who allows folks to camp in his yard.  This is commonplace in teeny Hachita, population 40, because it is the last "town" on the Continental Divide trail which ends 45 miles south in a little border town called Antelope Wells.  So, Sam offers hikers and cyclists his yard and driving services to and from Antelope Wells and to Columbus, Demming or El Paso.

Outside the post office, before heading over to Sam's, I peeled the anti-tea party sticker off my bike, and upon entry into Sam's house I was glad.  There was a gun over the door and one of Sam's first stories included his shoulder holster.  But really, I shouldn't have been so quick to judge.   Sam spoke several languages, understood the plight of the migrants, and was a really interesting fellow.  He told us about his family, his metal-detecting, his jewlry making and his international guests since he began as a trail guide over 10 years ago.  Sam was really sweet and again we were so glad to have a warm place to escape from the cold.  Due to the frigid temperatires, Sam offered us his floor, but in the end, we picked the clean, cold air instead of breathing smoke inside all night.

Day 18: Wednesday, November 9   Hachita, NM to Columbus, NM  Miles:  45 (844.5)  Flats: 0,8   Elevation: 4400 ft to 4000 ft

We had a contact in Columbus, and we were invited to join them across the border in Palomas if we got into town before 2:00.  We left with what we thought was plenty of time, but once again, the headwind got the best of us.

Part of the reason we chose from the west coast to the east was because in El Paso, the wind always seems to be going east.  Our friends in Columbus agreed and said 90% of the time the wind blows from the west.  But we landed in that 10% and the wind was about 20 miles per hour.

Eric thinks this was the worst day of cycling of the trip (I still think that day of pure sand dunes on the way to Penasco was the most difficult).  When we arrived in Columbus, later than anticipated, he collapsed on the ground in exhaustion.  Instead of heading over to Palomas (we spent the next whole day over there), we got some delicious grub and picked out our campsite at Pancho Villa State Park.

View of Columbus from Pancho Villa State Park

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