Prologue - Sat Sept 14, 2019

“Once upon a time in a far-off kingdom there lay a small village at the edge of a wood…”

San Diego

Here I am, about to start an epic self-supported bicycle adventure. San Diego California to St. Augustine Florida. It will take 67 days. There will be 9 riders in total, none of whom I have met. The trip is organized by the Adventure Cycling Association. They run trips like this all over the country. They have an extensive catalog of routes from fully supported to self-supported, short duration to extended duration. This trip, the so-called “Southern Tier” across the United States is one of their most popular. The trip always begins in September to provide the best chance of friendly weather across the entire route.

I’m a bit anxious. I’ve only done a moderate amount of riding in preparation for this. I have been hiking in the Sierras this last week, so at least I haven’t been sitting around. I originally envisioned doing this journey solo, but never having done anything like this before, I decided that it would be better to go with others - at least the first time.

I hope this turns out well. I’ve brought my iPad along to keep a journal. I’m actually quite excited about the prospect of writing each day and recording the days events and impressions. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It should be a blast.

Besides… “I’m a great admirer of my own writing.” - Snoopy

Tomorrow the adventure begins!

Southern Tier - Sun Sept 15, 2019

Day 1

San Diego California

The Southern Tier Tour officially begins! The group met to discuss the routine we will follow and we had our first dinner together. Our ride leader prepared the meal for us. Tonight and tomorrow night we will be right here in the Point Loma Hostel. Tomorrow we are only riding 5 miles. We are going to dip our wheels in the Pacific and take a group photo. Then back to the hostel to make any final gear adjustments. I have been assigned to be one of the two cooks for tomorrow night (cook teams consist of two people), which means we are shopping for and preparing dinner, breakfast, and lunch. That is the routine we will follow, with each person getting the assignment to cook about ever four days.

Earlier today I rode out to the Point Loma Light House, a 10 mile round trip from the Hostel. It was a pleasant ride. There is also a National Cemetery on Point Loma which is beautiful. The bike is rolling nicely. It looks like I got it assembled all in good order. Not a huge day today. Things will get interesting on Tuesday.

Miles: 0

Southern Tier - Mon Sept 16, 2019

Day 2

San Diego California

Today we rode out to the coast from the Hostel. Two and a half miles to the Pacific Ocean. We took a group photo and pushed our bikes through the sand to the ocean. I turned my bike around and let the surf wash up, covering the bottom of the rear wheel, and my shoes. The bike has officially been baptized in the Pacific Ocean. With luck, 66 days from now it will receive its second baptism in the Atlantic Ocean.

After the dip, I spent about 45 minutes cleaning the sand out of the disk brakes, the chain, and the rear cassette. While I was attending to that, I noticed the Ocean Beach public pier. It looked like it might be the west-most location you can get to on a bike if you are in the San Diego area, so I headed out to the end of the pier, where four of my riding companions had already gathered. After the dip, and the visit to the end of the Ocean Beach pier, I think my bike is ready to head east. By the way, the bike is named B-RAD. Tomorrow will be the first of many long days of riding, not counting the occasional rest day we will have.

Miles: 5

Southern Tier - Tue Sept 17, 2019

Day 3

Get out of San Diego day

It’s 4:00am. I’m up. I can’t sleep any longer. There is something about facing the start of a long trip that makes you want to go through your gear and see if there is a way to pack it any better. I’m pretty sure there is, since up to this point I have pretty much just been throwing shit into my panniers. I has occurred to me that no matter how I pack my gear I can’t make it any lighter, but the desire to make that happen somehow keeps crossing my mind.

It has been a rough start for me. There is a portion of our crew that has some severe dietary restrictions and I have been hesitant about what the food would taste like when the accommodations they require are applied to our food prep. Last night I helped fix dinner. I may have been wrong to be nervous, I hope so. Everyone in the group raved about the meal. I was proud, but also a little embarrassed. I never would have thought to use Turmeric in hamburger instead of garlic, peppers, and the like. Of course yesterday was not a long day of cycling, so people weren’t hungry as they will be after a long day of cycling. Given that fact, this could be a sign that everything is going to work out fine. I hope so.

My biggest concern on tour (after food) is getting lost. I’m not very good at map reading and reading the ACA maps takes a bit of practice. So I plan to get lost today, that will just have to be dealt with when it happens I suppose. At least I’m not fixing dinner tonight.

It’s time to begin, I’m excited…

It took only 5 miles before I got my first flat. Sarah our leader helped me change it, actually she gave me some valuable tips that saved a bit of time in the process. She’s an experienced cyclist, actually that is probably an understatement. She has lived basically on her bike for the last four years. After fixing the flat I realized I was actually off course. It took an unscheduled turn to get back on course. No bonus miles awarded. However, I did get bonus miles awarded later in the day when I got off course for the second time. That time worked to my advantage, because the wrong turn took me into a town with a Walgreens Drug and I was able to pick up sun screen, which I badly needed, and some lemon aid. The latter part of the day consisted of a lot of climbing. The last 10 miles of the course was all up hill with no respite. It was also about a 5% grade, so you just had to put your head down and keep slogging.

We reached camp 2-½ hours later than our plan, so dinner was late, our map meeting was late, and for many, so was getting to sleep. Today’s course has even more climbing than yesterday, but the good news is that at least for awhile, I’m guessing until we get to Texas, today will be the last really significant day of climbing. I could always be wrong about that… My fingers are cold, it’s chilly in the mountains at night and in the morning. Time to pack up for the day and get rolling.

Miles: 51

Southern Tier - Wed Sept 18, 2019

Day 4

San Diego to Jacumba Hot Springs

First things first, I need to start with a correction to yesterday’s post. I was chatting with one of my fellow riders that has an inclinometer, I judge the last 10 miles of yesterday’s ride to be a 5% grad on average. I was informed that actually is was between 7% and 8%. Makes for a better story doesn’t it?

I didn’t get enough carbs or protein at breakfast, so about two hours into the ride I stopped for “second breakfast”, I definitely felt like a Hobbit. The restaurant was quite remote, but I knew I was in for a treat because there was a good gathering of cars in front. I went inside and the hostess offered to fill my water bottle. I told her I was there for breakfast and she was mildly surprised. I’ve noticed that as a group, cyclists are pretty stingy when it comes to exchanging something of value (money) for a water bottle refill. I ordered the pulled pork and scrambled egg hash with refried beans and a giant tortilla. It was awesome, I mean really good, I mean like out of this world good.

Yes, I was hungry… Half-way through my meal I thought it would be a good idea to back it up with a waffle - for the road - so I ordered a “plain” waffle to-go. It arrived in a box, which was perfect, but when I peeked inside I saw that it was covered with butter in the process of melting perfectly, and along side of the waffle was a big container of syrup to go with it. So being the resourceful person that I am, I went ahead and ate it on the spot. About half-way through the waffle I realized I needed to back it all up with a large orange juice. I walked out of the diner feeling full (imagine that) got on the bike and immediately started up a hill. Everything turned out all right, although doing that is a risky proposition, I have to admit.

This was the second day of climbing, as in thousands of vertical. I’ve never done this much vertical two days in a row. I felt stronger today than I did yesterday. I’m guessing it was the waffle. Whatever the case, it was a better day and I arrived in Jacumba Hot Springs feeling well enough to go into the market and buy a beer. The lady there informed I couldn’t drink it in front of her store. So, I drank half of it in front of her store, then went down the street to finish it on a bench in front of the art gallery. It was a tiny gallery, but it was right in my wheel house. The artist showing there was a metal sculptor specializing in welded creatures. My favorite one was a pelican on roller skates. You really needed to be there. The gallery was closed because they were getting ready for an exhibition in two weeks. This is how it rolls in a small town. I sat down on a log bench in front of the gallery to finish my beer. An old lady walked across the street and sat down next to me! She pointed at the cactus in the planter box and then pointed at me knee. She didn’t speak any English, well, very little. If anyone knows what she meant by that please get word to me. We tried to talk in sign language for awhile but it was pointless, so I told her I had to go and she grabbed my arm and said what I assumed was “wait”. Then she said something in broken English that sounded like “dollar”. Ah! The light came on! I walked over to my bike and dug a dollar out of my front bag and walked back. She gave me a big smile when I returned. At that point I knew I had guessed correctly. It was clear she wanted a hug, so I gave her a big hug and then started walking away. I heard something that definitely sounded like “wait” this time, so I turned around and there she was standing, pointing to her bright rid lips, and saying what was clearly the word “kiss”. How could I resist? I kissed her and she was delighted. And that’s how I got kissed by a prune-faced, red lipstick wearing octogenarian in Jacumba Hot Springs.

I wandered over to the bar across the street, at the resort where we were staying for the night, and ordered a Manhattan. The bar tender looked at me and said, “we don’t get a lot of requests for that.” She asked me what went in a Manhattan and I said, “well, Bourbon for starters, and then Sweet Vermouth. She looked at me a little disappointed and said they didn’t have any Sweet Vermouth. Well, they had a bottle three months ago, it hadn’t been opened in six years, so they threw it out. Just my luck. I should have done this tour in the Spring instead of the Fall.

Miles: 42

Southern Tier - Thur Sept 19, 2019

Day 5

Jacumba Hot Sprints to Brawley California

The day started with a nice climb out of Jacumba Hot Springs, it will be the only climb of my 70 mile day. At the top, the route merges with I-8 for 14 miles, all down hill! Sounds like fun, and it was, with just a touch of cautious terror. The side-winds were very strong in places. To tell where you needed to slowdown you had to keep a close eye on canyon openings and the movement of surrounding bushes. I reached 50 mph, but most of the distance covered was at a speed around 35 mph. Good heavens this Davidson rolls like a dream.

It’s hot, about 90 plus degrees. I’m now officially in the South West California desert. The first thing I noticed is that the water in the water bottles heats up. Warm (almost hot) water is certainly better than no water, but not very satisfying in the heat. The border wall is just to the South of me and I see Border Patrol vehicles every few miles. The 19 mile stretch between Ocotillo and Seeley is horrid. The road is in such bad shape you can’t go faster than about 8 mph. Even that is pushing it. Shortly after turning onto this stretch I came up to a sign that said “Road Closed Bridge Out Ahead.” I didn’t feel like adding miles by detouring around, so I simply went around the sign. Three miles later, sure enough, the bridge was closed and barricaded. The only natural thing to do was to go around the bridge, which was easy to do, it seems that’s what all the locals do also. Bridges in the desert are conveniences to get you over a dry wash. Usually, as was the case here, there is an easy detour around the bridge, into the wash and back out again. In Seeley I got some chocolate milk. I do love that stuff when I am cycling. I don’t drink it normally, but on the road it is like Mana from Nestle.

The route doesn’t go through El Centro, but I wanted to see what the town was like so I peddled in. A homeless guy on a bike crossed in front of me at an intersection and he said “nice ride man” to me. I went into a bike shop to look for a Pletscher Double kickstand and the guy noticed my S & S couplers. It was the first time he had seen them. Small town bike shop for sure (they didn’t have the kickstand either).

I rolled down to a Starbucks to grab an iced Americano (it’s my nap time) and post to the blog. Shortly after arriving I got a call from our tour boss (Sarah) the route we were supposed to take from El Centro to Brawley was bad, no shoulder. I went back to the bike shop to warn the two riders I left there but one had already struck out, not much I can do to help her, she doesn’t own a cell phone (that’s just a little hard to believe, but true) a cell phone could easily be considered an essential tool on a cross country tour. To each her own I guess. I gave the other fellow Sarah’s warning, then decided to hang around with him. His bike gave up the ghost and he was buying a new one. It will take the shop 2 hours to get him ready to roll. I could bail-out but I decided to wait for him and ride the last 15 miles to Brawley with him. Safety in numbers and all that.

The last 15 miles to Brawley was hot, windy, and basically brutal.

Tomorrow I get into the Arizona desert.

Miles: 77

Southern Tier - Fri Sept 20, 2019

Day 6

Brawley to somewhere near Arizona

It’s Saturday morning, I was too tired to write about the day, possibly because I did not drink any lemonade all day. What I DID drink was 5 liters of water as I rode thru the Imperial Valley, the desert and mountains beyond, including some spectacular dunes. The center of the dunes recreation area is Glamis, CA. Our Trail Boss made sure the nice lady running the store stayed open for us. This is not the dunes high season. That comes a bit later in the year when the weather cools off a bit. On the subject of weather, we encountered temps well below the seasonal average, but it was still very hot. Thankfully not 110. It can reach that temp this time of year I was told. The lady at the store was very sweet. I purchased a bottle of water for $2 and after I handed her the cash. She told me, “darling, take that bottle back to the case and get the big size.” What a sweetheart.

One of my riding companions gave me a frozen bottle of Gatorade as we were leaving in the morning (or Gatorade, not sure which it is). I drank it in one go on the summit outside Glamis. I’ve never drank that much in one go before. It was marvelous. It had melted completely but it was still cold, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Last night I rolled into our camp site, a church in Brawley, and noticed that both screws were gone from the rack stays that attach the rack to the seat post. I’m not sure why the rack was not dragging on the ground at that point. I was a bit discouraged, because I didn’t have time to pack an extra set of screws before leaving on the tour. I need to hit a bike shop and “pick up” some spare screws and some Loktite. I fixed the rack by removing one of my three bottle cages and using the screws from that to re-attach the rack stays.

I got a bit of a scare late in the day. Most of the day’s riding was on roads with less than a foot of shoulder to the right of the white line. In one of those tight places I noticed a car passing a truck ahead of me. It was clear the driver was not going to make it around the truck before passing me. I came to a complete stop just before the car and truck, side-by-side, passed by me at full speed. People in this part of the country don’t fiddle around on 2-lane state roads, they are moving. There was no time to pull off the road, but coming to a stop is the next best thing. You don’t want to swerve and get in the way of that shit.

Miles: 70

Southern Tier - Sat Sept 21, 2019

Day 7

California to Quartzite Arizona

The day started with a flat 20 mile cruise through beautiful farm country. I was the last out of camp and I was swept by the Trail Boss for most of the first 20 miles. We had a fun conversation. She is not only a Trail Boss, but also a talented writer and author. Our conversation was engaging and interesting. At one point we stopped to take a closer look at the crops we were seeing along side the road. I was amazed to discover they grow cotton in the Palo Verde valley. The next leg was a 10 mile climb on I-10 at a constant 5/6% grade. We exited the freeway at the summit and took a pleasant less traveled county road into our destination for the day, Quartzite, AZ. Yes, I have left California behind and I am now in Arizona, land of guns and burritos.

Yesterday when I arrived in camp I had no feeling in my right foot and my right knee was sore. This is very concerning to say the least. I took Advil and went to bed worried about the next day. Well, I’m not the sharpest stick in the wood pile, but about half way thru the day it dawned on me what was going on. I’ve been mashing the right pedal more than the left. Once I realized what I was doing I was able to start putting more pressure on the left. I am confident this is going make a huge difference. My knee and foot felt better when I arrived in camp tonight.

I haven’t been getting enough carbs and protein in the camp meals, so I have been supplementing with stops during the day where I can pull them off. Today I pulled into a Love’s Truck Stop about 2 miles from our camp and some nice folks had set up a hot dog and hamburger stand to benefit the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. I had a Dr. Pepper and a hot dog with the works, and the two together were damn good. I also picked up some IPAs on the way in to camp. Before I got to camp, only a quarter mile away, I had the mother of all flats. A twisted hunk of 10 gauge wire got caught in my wheel and punctured the side wall of the tire and exited through the top of the tire, puncturing the tube in two places. It almost took off my fenders! Fortunately the PDW Fenders have break-away struts and I was able to attach them easily. I put in a new tube, but while I was fixing the flat the last four riders passed me. It’s not a race. I will probably be the last one in to camp more often than not.

This kind of cycling can be excruciatingly hard, but at the same time, there is a sense of reward and empowerment that is difficult to describe. I’m confident that everyone on this tour feels the same way I do. It’s why we ride.

Miles: 43

Southern Tier - Sun Sept 22, 2019

Day 8

Quartzite Arizona to Salome

Today seemed particularly hot. I had another flat tire, but this time it was right in front of a grocery store, the only one on our route, so I was able to repair the flat in the shade. I was grateful for that, to be sure. About 15 miles down the road from the grocery store I noticed I had a slow leak, same tire. I decided to just keep pumping it up and deal with it in the morning. I had to inflate it three times in the last 5 miles to allow the tire to limp into the campground. Yes, I inflated it three times, if I had “blown it up” I would never have made it to the camp ground.

It was a 37 mile day, but by the time I reached the KOA where we are staying I was looking for something cold to drink. I bought a Dr. Pepper immediately, then went back a short time later to have another, then a short time later I went back for a bottle of water. The Dr. Pepper tasted heavenly.

I was one of two cooks tonight. I came up with the dinner plan and executed it, but my partner was a huge help. Good guy. He ran the stoves and did all the stuff that I don’t know how to do. We had a stew of sorts, two types, one with meat and good stuff, and one vegetarian style. The food restrictions and preferences on this trip make preparing tasty means difficult. The meal was a huge success. Everyone was very complementary. Under normal circumstances you would not be impressed with this meal, but after cycling 37 miles in the desert heat, it took on a completely different personality. The ingredients were water, bullion, spices (the combination is secret of course) corn, peas, carrots, black eye peas, poblanos, jalapeños, onion, and hamburger. I used jasmine rice, not the instant kind, and cooked it all until it’s was a thick stew consistency. Yum, it was good. Adding a little Chuhula Sauce after serving took it over the top.

Linda who runs the KOA where we are staying took me and my cooking partner to the grocery store 2-½ miles down the road, waited for us to shop, and then took us back to the campground. To thank her we bought her a 6-pack of Coors Light, her favorite. She was a darling to do that for us.

The evenings in the high desert are beautiful. It was mid nineties today, but right now outside it feels like 70. I’m sitting outside as I write and I’m absolutely just as comfortable as you can be, and happy to be here.

Miles: 37

Southern Tier - Mon Sept 23, 2019

Day 9

Salome to Wickenburg Arizona

Today was without a doubt, the most eventful day of the journey so far. The first ten miles were overcast and cool. Delightful really. One of my traveling companions that keeps an eye on the wether told me that a hurricane in the Gulf of Baja was headed our way with wind and rain. Sure enough, about mile fifteen we entered a squall. I don’t exactly know what a squall is, I know it’s something that sailors don’t like to have to deal with, so based on that, I’m calling what hit us a squall. Actually, there have only been two times in my life when it has rained harder, once in Seattle in the winter of 2018, and once in Hawaii on the Island of Maui. In the latter case, it only rained for 20 minutes, and I was dry in ten minutes following the down pour. Today was a different matter entirely. It rained for fifteen miles, and it rained hard. Really hard. There was lightening, thunder, driving rain, and the dry washes along the road filled up to near capacity in about an hour. At one point I had to get off the bike and just stand, back to the wind and rain and wait until I could see a safe distance ahead again. Needless to say I was drenched, The purpose of rain gear in this situation is not to keep you dry, nothing will, the purpose of rain gear in this situation is to simply keep you warm so you don’t go hypothermic. I now know that hypothermia in the desert is a thing. By the way, this is one of the reasons I’m on this journey, to experience everything nature and the landscape has to off. I put on my rain coat and laughed telling Mother Nature to bring it on. She did not disappoint.

A strangely delightful aspect of traveling through the Sonoran desert in a rain storm is that you can smell the creosote bushes. The fragrance in the air is not at all disagreeable. It reminded me of walking along a railroad track in summer as a kid. On hot days you cold smell the creosote in the ties. This smell was more natural and pervasive. I’m told you don’t smell these bushes when it’s dry.

Five of us ducked into a grocery at the half-way point. We hung out there for a bit and even grabbed some sun, although the sun breaks were weak and didn’t last very long. The Trail Boss found a tiny frog. She is quite the frog and Monarch butterfly expert. This particular frog (name escapes me) was the first one of it’s type she had ever seen. Watching her was fun. She was truly excited about her find. She held the little guy for us to examine, and pointed out the features that made it unique. Her love for nature is infectious, I got a big kick out of watching her. This particular kind of frog only comes out in the desert when there is a big rain. We were extremely lucky to be a part of the sighting.

After the rain parted, the last 25 miles was dry, but it seemed to be up-hill most of the way. I arrived at the RV park in Wickenburg where we were staying to discover the best showers we have had so far on the trip. A delightful surprise.

I did not have a flat today. Thank goodness. It was a long day and a flat would have made me late to camp. After I got cleaned up my dear friends Terry, his wife Cindy, and their daughter Ellie, came out to Wickenburg from Phoenix to take me out to dinner. Terry brought a kick-stand for me and installed it, then we went to dinner. The food was excellent, the Margaritas were excellent, and the company was even better. My friends are the greatest.

Southern Tier - Tue Sept 24, 2019

Day 10

Wickenburg to Tempe

I thought today’s ride would be uneventful, in fact I was worried that I might not have anything to write about. The reality turned out to be anything but that. The first 25 miles were fast and uneventful. I felt strong and was making really good time, then pulled up with a flat, again. This was the 6 flat in 10 days. I’m starting to get good at fixing these, but it still takes time that should be spent in the saddle instead of on the ground. It was the same as always, a few inches of fine gauge wire probably off a radial tire blow-out. This has been the source of almost all my flats. While I was fixing it, three riders passed me. From that point on I just cruised in to Phoenix.

I rode from Surprise to downtown Phoenix and was either on a bike trail or in a designated bike lane. That’s pretty astounding, considering the riding covered a distance of about 24 miles. It was a slog on the canal trail due to a stiff head wind. I did not make good time on that leg of a the route.

At the end of 15th Avenue I turned onto Roosevelt Street. At this point I was about 2 miles from the Hostel. I almost fell off my bike, I realized at the turn that I was just 2 blocks from my favorite places in Phoenix! There is a little square of pop-ups that has the best ice cream in Phoenix, the best billboard (it’s hilariously political by Phoenix standards) my favorite bar in Phoenix (they book the worst music acts) and 2 blocks from there, the home of David and Becky. Naturally I stopped for an ice cream, then a drink, then I went to see David and Becky! They are so sweet, they are hosting me for dinner tomorrow evening. It’s going to be great catching up with them.

I finally did make it to the Hostel. Surprisingly, not the last one in. I should have had two ice cream stuffed donuts! Ah! I forgot to mention above that they actually serve the two together, a most delectable sandwich. I quickly got organized and cleaned up so I could have dinner with Audrey.

Audrey picked me up at 7pm and took me to a very nice Italian place for dinner. It turns out I would not hesitate to eat there again. We had a great time catching up, and she brought me some treats too! She gave me some of her favorite protein bars, along with a new notebook, mine was filling up already, and also a white long-sleeve SPF 50 shirt to wear in the desert. That is something I should have thought about before I left Seattle, but you can’t think of everything, fortunately Audrey to the rescue!

Tomorrow is a rest day.

Miles: 56

Southern Tier - Wed Sept 25, 2019

Day 11

Rest day

Today we are on our own to rest up and enjoy some of the local flavor of Phoenix. We are in a Hostel in the Arts District. It’s going to be a relaxing day. At our morning map meeting I suggested to my companions that they go to the Barrio Cafe for duck tacos (2 miles from here) and to Novel Ice Cream (1 mile from here) for the best ice cream and best donut in Phoenix. Actually, they combine them to make the best ice cream filled donut, it’s a marvel. Novel makes the ice cream by hand, and they get the donuts from the donut maker voted “Best in Phoenix.”

I plan to run some errands. Audrey has loaned me her car for the day so I should be able to get a lot done! Tonight I’m having dinner with my friends David and Becky. They are wonderful people that I met last Christmas when I stayed in their ABnB. It’s going to be a good lay-over, but I will be ready to hit the road again tomorrow morning to continue the journey!

Southern Tier - Thu Sept 26, 2019

Day 12

Get out of Phoenix day

Today we left Phoenix behind and are now putting New Mexico in our sights. Today was a low mileage day, only 37 miles. We definitely are easing back into the tour after our day of rest. The ride today was uneventful. There was some confusion getting out of Phoenix in Tempe, because a bridge that is on the route was closed for repairs and we had to figure out an alternate route. Once that was accomplished, the rest of the route was uneventful.

We bought groceries four miles from our campground. Trail Boss asked is someone would pick up a cooler bag for hauling cold items, which I did yesterday. That made me the person most likely to be selected to haul the cold items, since I was carrying the bag. That’s kind of how it works. When the cook team finished shopping they came out of the store with 4 lb. of potato salad. 2 - 1 lb. containers of coleslaw, a large yogurt, and a quart of milk. All-in-all, close to 10 lb. of items to go into the cooler bag. I loaded the items, tied the bag to my bike, and started for the campground. The campground was 4 miles away, uphill all the way. I was a little disgruntled at first, but I eventually got over it. At lest I can carry the weight, which makes me happy, once I realized that being able to carry that load is a privilege (it means I have gas in the tank where others may not).

I got to the campground and asked the Ranger if they had ice, he said “no.” I dumped my stuff, pitched my tent, and headed back down the hill to get ice. I don’t like warm milk in the morning. As long as I was at the store, I picked up a 6-pack of beer. That was a big hit. I got 8 “bonus miles” and lots of thanks for going back down the hill and up again,

Tomorrow we will cover almost 70 miles with close to 7,000 ft of climbing. I thought the real climbing test was over, but it looks like we are going to get hit with a test that might be the biggest challenge yet.

Miles: 45

Southern Tier - Fri Sept 27, 2019

Day 13

Today’s destination Tonto Basin Arizona

I’m excited about today. The map shows us climbing 7,000 ft in just under 70 miles. The last time I did a 7,000 ft day it was over 100 miles. Of course terrain varies, so the compressed distance of today’s ride by comparison does not mean more difficulty, but I have a feeling this day is going to be a real challenge and could very well be my toughest one yet on this tour.

Coffee this morning was a little weak, but it’s surprising how good it tastes when you are hungry and you are in the outdoors. This crew needs a Barista. If we had someone dedicated to making a good cup of coffee in the morning, I would be willing to let them out of cooking duties! Perhaps I should think about carrying an espresso machine that can be used over a camp stove. I’ll have to think about proposing that to the group.

Yesterday at the grocery store I bought a bottle of Frank’s Red Hot, that was genius if I do say so. It took store-bought potato salad to a whole new level, and made it taste almost good. Actually it tasted very good.

The plant life in the desert is amazingly beautiful, it is also very angry. As I was pulling my gear out of my tent this morning, I put my knee down on some prickly thing. I could have sworn it wasn’t there when I walked up to the tent. I think it purposely positioned itself so that my knee would find it. In order to pull it out of my knee, I had to grab more prickly parts. It’s the plant that keeps on giving. Be vigilant in the desert!

End of the day

There were two good hills in the first 10 miles, but these were just a warm-up. At mile 10, I stopped for a hot dog. I forgot to make myself a lunch before I broke camp. Who does that? Today there are only two stops with food or water in 70 miles. Realizing that, I decided I had better eat at the first stop. After my snack, I went in to the rest room and while I was inside I managed to drop my phone. It has a case, the phone seemed fine, but when I stopped later to take a picture, the camera was broken, as in not working at all. No pictures. I’m really bummed and I’m going to have to do something about that in the next few days. I can’t be doing the remainder of this epic trip with no photos!

We went over 4 mountain passes, all of which were anywhere from 7% to 10% grades. They just seemed to go on forever. It took almost 2 hours to get over one pass, The Mother Of All Passes (MOAP) was 3 miles to the top and a consistent 9% to 10% grade. One of the passes was 4 miles to the top, that’s 4 miles of climbing with no relief.

About halfway up the MOAP I stopped to take a drink. A Ram 350 Pickup pulling a heavy load pulled off the road and rolled up behind me. The driver got out and asked me for directions to the nearest town with services. I’m not sure what trouble he was having, but I helped him as best I could. I showed him the maps we were following and we identified the best bet for him. We had a really nice conversation, He was, like most people, surprised to learn that I was headed for Florida. We chatted about that at some length. The really odd thing is it doesn’t seem that crazy to me. I guess when you put your mind to something and then start doing it, it takes on a different perspective than it does in the minds of people that have never contemplated such a thing.

I continued the climb and about 45 minutes later another truck pulled off the road in front of me. The driver got out and opened his tail-gate and inside the back of his truck was an ice chest and bottles of water. He motioned for me to pull over and he filled my water bottles with ice and gave me an extra one for the road. His name was Bill Coleman. He was from Tonto Basin, our destination town. I asked Bill where to go for a beer in Tonto Basin, and told him if he were there tonight I would buy him a drink. We chatted for a bit and I found out he has crossed the country on a bike, which is why he was so obliging with the ice and water.

The next opportunity for food was 12 miles from our destination. For almost 50 miles I had been drinking water and eating crackers that I found in my panniers. At mile 55 I pulled into Jacob’s Corner. They have a grocery and a bar, so of course at this point there was no choice to be made. I went into the bar and had a cheeseburger, fries, and two cold Budweiser’s. That’s right, Budweiser’s. They taste really good after you have climbed 7,000 ft in 55 miles. The twelve miles from Jacob’s Corner to Tonto Basin were mostly down hill with only a few very mild hills here and there. The cheeseburger and the Buds go my to our destination in good order. I did have to pedal slowly to avoid loosing that tasty Budweiser.

After dinner at our destination, I walked over to the bar that Bill had recommended, He wasn’t there, but it was Karaoke night. There were 8 people in the bar (not counting me and the bartender). Two men were playing pool, and a group of 4 women were singing, along with 2 men. They were not together. The women were definitely having a night out. One of the women sounded very good. She could have passed for a professional in another life or another town, but this is Tonto Basin. I finished my beer and left the bar. It’s late, and I’m probably going to pay a price for writing this post tonight, but one of my goals is to post every day, that will cost me some sleep every now and then.

Thanks to everyone out there that is following along on this journey by reading these stories. You know who you are, and I do appreciate all the encouragement it gives me to know that you are enjoying these words.

Miles: 67

Vertical: 7,000

Southern Tier - Sat Sept 28, 2019

Day 14

No photos today. I haven’t found a solution for my broken cell phone. When I dropped the phone yesterday, the camera quit working. Everything else is fine, apps, mail, voice, text, but I can’t get a photo to save my life. Today I called a Walmart to see what Nikon cameras they had available, They didn’t have any with WiFi. If I buy a camera I will need WiFi to get the photos to my iPhone and iPad. I realize there are other ways, but I’m on the road and I don’t have time each day to mess around with SD cards and other types of nonsense. I also went in to a cell phone store that I thought could help T-Mobile customers, but they couldn’t. They didn’t think there were any T-Mobile stores between here and El Paso. I’ll have to keep my eyes open! I hope that by the time I get to Silver City next week, or El Paso after that, I will once again be able to take pictures.

Today was another tough day. We covered 52 miles and there was 5,000 feet of climbing, About half or slightly more of the 5,000 came on one hill that was almost 6 miles long and a constant 7% grade. There was no relief, meaning there were not flat spots between the bottom and the top. It was another challenging day. I got to the grocery stop at the end of the day well ahead of most of my fellow riders. Sadly though, I made a wrong turn leaving town and wasted about 45 minutes trying to get back on route. Google seems to make odd choices when you put it in “bicycle” mode. I never have these sort of issues when it is navigating in “car” mode.

Tomorrow I’m cooking again. I plan to make exactly what I made last time. I’m going to stick with a good thing until the inmates complain! It will be tricky though, because tomorrow is a 76 mile day. That means I will have to put my head down and boogie in order to shop and be cooking at 5pm! To help make that happen, I’m going to close this post and get myself into my tent and to sleep. Tomorrow’s post is likely to be a short one, we’ll see.

I’m having fun. (If you have to tell yourself you’re having fun, are you? I’ll have to think about that.) Yes, I’m having fun.

Miles: 52

Vertical: 5,000

Southern Tier - Sun Sept 29, 2019

Day 15

Globe Arizona to Safford Arizona (The Salsa Trail)

The new tires are working great. Last night when I pulled into the spot where I planned to pitch my tent, I noticed I was picking up “goat heads” on my tires. Goat Heads are small, but very destructive little balls of thorns. I quickly altered course and found a different spot. You will recall that I had the tires mounted to the wheels without using tubes, I’m now running “tubeless.” The trick with tubeless is the sealant they put inside the tires. As I was pulling the Goat Heads out of my tires, I noticed some very small bubbles after a Goat Head was removed, that is the sealant at work filling the puncture left behind. Very impressive. My tires are still inflated this morning and ready to go on their 76 mile ride from Globe to Safford.

Today was the third day in a row of either high mileage or lots of climbing. It’s one thing to do this level of effort occasionally, but day-in, day-out becomes a challenge in itself. I finished today really in fine shape. I was the first one to the grocery stop at the end of the day, that was my goal because I was the cook tonight and responsible for shopping. When I finished shopping, five other riders were waiting outside the store to help me carry the groceries to the campground.

I knocked dinner out of the park tonight. I cooked the same meal I did last time, only with a slight variation. Instead of onion in the sauté, I used yellow and orange peppers, and I added a pound of Italian Sausage to the pot this time along with the pound of hamburger. So far, I’m the only person that has cooked a meal “from scratch” with the exception of Trail Boss. Last night she fixed “Thanksgiving Dinner.” We had mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, and sliced ham.

Tomorrow we will cross the Arizona, New Mexico state line and we will officially be in our third state. I am looking forward to a photo of myself standing on the continental divide. (That should be the day after tomorrow) I did get two photos today. The selfie camera on the phone is not broken, so I held it backwards to snap a landscape shot, and I also took my first official selfie of the trip

I’m very tired, having logged a long day, cooked dinner, and also done laundry. Tomorrow will be another 76 mile day crossing into New Mexico

Miles: 76

Vertical: 2,000

Southern Tier - Mon Sept 30, 2019

Day 16

Get out of Arizona day

Today turned out to be the toughest day yet. The route took us into New Mexico and covered another 76 miles. There was significant climbing which was unexpected. I don’t spend a lot of time studying the maps the day before each ride, so it was a bit of a surprise to me that we actually had the same amount of climbing as yesterday. Stringing these days together one after the other is a challenge. To make things easier we decided to eat at a restaurant instead of cooking in camp. We all met at a restaurant in Lordsburg at 6:30pm (7:30 Mountain) so it was a long day.

I started the day late because I cooked dinner and breakfast, which always makes the cook the last one out of camp. After breakfast was finished and I was all packed, I rode back four miles to a Walmart to buy a camera. The shopping trip in the wrong direction and the breakfast made me almost two hours late getting getting started on the route this morning. I managed to pass two people along the way, arriving at the restaurant 15 minutes before our reservation. I had to put the hammer down for the last 19 miles.

One of our crew dropped out last night. He made his announcement at dinner. He picked up the dinner check for everyone and then announced he was leaving the tour. These are hard days, there isn’t a lot of time for sight-seeing. You need to keep your head down and pedal to make it each day to the day’s end-destination and still have time to set up camp and cook. It’s not for everyone. As we were leaving the restaurant, I told the Trail Boss I was going across the street to the Econo Lodge for the night. She asked me if I was leaving the tour! She was partly serious. I think the announcement caught her off-guard. I told her that wild horses couldn’t drag me off the tour! I knew I was making the right call to get a bed for the night because during dinner there was mention of mesquites at the KOA.

Today will be tough again, but it’s worth it, Every time a lizard scurries out of the brush at the side the road and runs along side my bike for 10 feet of so before ducking back into the brush, it makes me smile. I had a butterfly chase me for about 30 feet darting about in front of me. (I was going up hill.) Near sunset, I heard a coyote, and the sound of birds was amazing. I have never heard anything like it.

I did stop and read one historical marker yesterday, I was a convenient place to stop and grab some water. I was shocked at how disturbing it was. It is true that history is written by the victors, not the vanquished. But the inscription in front of me read like such a good white man, bad Indian story that it had to be taken with a huge grain of salt. Human history is complicated. Attempts to summarize it on a road marker are fraught with all sorts of danger. It’s probably better to leave the road side markers to explanations of geology. Most people (but not all) find geology less controversial.

Today we cross the Continental Divide and will be climbing 4,000 feet in just over 50 miles. Lordsburg is a 4,250 feet elevation, which means we will be climbing to an elevation over 8,000 feet. I really hope I can figure out the camera so I can get a shot of me with my bike at the Continental Divide.

Miles: 76

Vertical: 2,000

Southern Tier - Tue Oct 1, 2019

Day 17

Lordsburg New Mexica to Silver City New Mexico

Another grueling day. Climbing 4,000 feet was tougher than it sounds. I dragged my heels all day. I was not the last one into camp, but almost! Tomorrow is a day of rest and it is sorely needed, at least for me. Today I crossed the Continental Divide and I’m now hanging out in a bar in Silver City. Very tired, but not too tired to have a beer. The beer I’m having is a “Smart Blonde”, brewed by the Little Toad Creek Brewery. (Drinking a beer named “Smart Blonde” doesn’t necessarily mean any attribute implied by the name will be granted to the drinker…)

Speaking of smart blondes, I picked up a very pretty (and smart) blonde on the road today. She wanted a ride all the way to Florida, but I said I would take her to Silver City. Your probably wondering how you can pick-up someone when you are on a bike tour, you have to be very observant. She didn’t mind riding in front of the handle bars, which I appreciated because that meant she could keep an eye out for road debris and warn me when we were approaching something that should be avoided. She was very quiet. I ignored the fact that her beautiful blonde locks were in reality “plugs.” When I dropped her in Silver City, I asked her for her name. All she said was “Barbie’s Little Sister.” That made sense, she was only 4 inches tall and she had a perfect figure, I should have guessed her name right from the git-go.

I did finally arrive in Silver City at 4:30. I spent 8 hours on the road and traveled a whopping 44 miles. The hills were killer.

Miles: 44

Vertical: 4,000

Southern Tier - Wed Oct 2, 2019

Day 18

This is our rest day. It came at a perfect time. I was exhausted from the last four days of climbing and mileage. We have three more days in the mountains then we will have put the climbing behind us and we will be into a completely different experience.

I took my bike in to a shop here in Silver City for a tune-up. I took it to “Hike and Bike” and they are a very helpful bunch. Today is dedicated to relaxing, catching up on my posts, and figuring out how to get photos off my new camera so I can get them into my iPad and my iPhone. I’m also looking forward to a little thrift shopping, just for fun, and a good dinner tonight with of course a few beers to accompany it. Tomorrow we have a 50 mile day with another 3,500 to 4,000 feet of climbing. The day after that we will be going over Emery Pass. The pass tops out at 8,300 elevation and change. Coming down from Emery Pass is a 5,000 foot descent, that will be a lot of fun. The Davidson loves to roll down hill.

The last fews days I have been pondering the lines of a poem about birds. You have a lot of time to think while you are cycling. It started when I pulled over and saw three birds circling overhead about 200 feet in the air. It was a hot afternoon and they were using the air currents to keep themselves aloft with the bare minimum of effort on their part. It was truly elegant to behold. I’m going to close this post by sharing the poem with you, I finished it last night while sitting at the “Little Toad Creek” brewery.

Southern Tier - Thu Oct 3, 2019

Day 19

Silver City New Mexico to Membres New Mexico

Today I had to make a difficult choice. Take the high road, or take the low road. There were two different routes to the town of Membres available to us. One, the high route, included a lot of climbing and crossing the Continental Divide two more times. The other route was only half as long with less than half the climbing. I chose the low route. I feel a bit like a cheater. There are eight of us now. Four went high and four went low. I’m just going to have to come back and do the high route some time. It would be fun to incorporate, the Gila Cliff Dwellings into that too. That would be a nice two or three day tour.

By taking the low route, I did pass through the area where one of the largest open pit mines in the world is currently in operation. I stopped for a good bit of time at the observation turn-out and read all the signs on display there. The signs explained the history of the mine, ownership, and innovations in mining that have taken place in the last 100 years. The pit was bigger than you can possibly imagine, bigger than I had imagined anyway. The giant electric shovel that loads 2-½ tons of rock in a single scoop looked like a tiny speck on the side of the pit where they were excavating. I didn’t take any photos. Open pit mining creates a huge scar on the land. Even after reclamation, you can still see that mining operations have clearly taken place.

At the end of the ride, I stopped in to a small grocery store/restaurant. I wanted to buy a six pack of beer to have and share with the beer drinkers in the group. There was a man in front of me buying some simple groceries using food stamps, nothing too healthy. He also had an item that didn’t qualify for food stamps. The lady in the store rang it all up. He tried to hand her money for the non-covered item, she said, “that’s ok, I got it.” It made me think about charity. We all need to take care of those we know or those we meet that are less fortunate than we are, but we also need to take care of those who have no one looking out for them. As I rode away from the store I saw a political sticker about the greatness of America. It was difficult for me to relate that sentiment to real caring in Washington D. C. Caring about the people living in this remote valley, and other valleys like it.

I stopped along the way today to write a few lines of a poem. I got in to camp so early today I might have an opportunity to work on it some more before I retire for the night. Tomorrow we ride over Emery Pass. We will reach the highest point of the tour, approximately 8,500 feet elevation.

Miles: 24

Vertical: 1,000

Southern Tier - Fri Oct 4, 2019

Day 20

Membres to somewhere else in New Mexico

6:00am. Last night it rained and it was difficult to sleep. The lightening and thunder were epic. I don’t know if that is common for this part of the country, but it was extremely uncommon for me. Even inside the tent, I could see the display that Mother Nature was putting on was spectacular in its ferocity and its beauty. I stayed in the tent and appreciated it vicariously, mostly dry.

Fortunately, it stopped raining by 7:00am so I was able to pack all my gear without getting myself or my gear any wetter. We stayed at the Mountain Mist RV Park in Membres. Our camp host Mickey was a dear. She fixed us breakfast and was just the sweetest person you could want to meet. I would like to go back to the Membres valley. There is a lot of beauty there, and a lot to see and do, particularly the Gila Cliff Dwellings. You could easily spend three days cycling the valley and surrounding areas. The RV park is the cleanest I’ve seen yet, very warm and inviting. Mickey even put new bottles of body wash and shampoo in the showers for us. That is a first on the trip. Those items haven’t been provided, until last night.

We started out the day with an 18 mile climb up to Emory Pass. The route was simply climbing with no relief. I had to stop once to let my heart rate come down. It was an average 6% grade with stretches of 10% thrown in for good measure. At the top, the view of the surrounding valley to the South was spectacular. The decent from the top was thrilling, the second most exciting descent I have ever done. The first being the Maui Downhill, which starts at the top of Mt. Haleakala and goes all the way to the ocean, 26 miles if I recall correctly. This descent was on the order of 17 miles with the first 7 being the most thrilling.

This area of New Mexico was the ancestral home of the Chiricahua Apache. They believed that everything on the land was their’s for the taking. That included all things natural and all things man-made. They fought a protracted struggle during the “Indian Wars” and were finally made “Prisoners Of War” and moved to Florida. The climate there was unhealthy for them and many died. They were then moved to Oklahoma. Eventually they were allowed to move back to their ancestral homes and live with other Apache Indians already established on reservations there. Some stayed in Oklahoma and homesteaded, some returned to New Mexico.

I reached the town of Hillsboro, about 18 miles below the summit of Emory Pass at just after 2pm. There was a cafe there that stayed open until 2, the owner was just closing. I asked if I and my riding companion could get some food and she let us in. We both ordered the “Hillsboro Hot Dog,” which turned out to be a Southwest style hot dog. Green chili peppers, bacon, tomatoes, and lots of other good stuff. It really was sort of a take on a Chicago style hot dog. It was wonderful. It was also perfectly timed because for dinner our group was planning a light meal due to a lack of groceries available in this rather more remote section of New Mexico.

Miles: 60

Vertical: Too much

We topped out at 8,229 feet, the highest elevation on the tour.

Southern Tier - Sat Oct 5, 2019

Day 21

Somewhere in New Mexico to Las Cruces New Mexico

Today we reached Las Cruces. Our route took us more or less straight South. The head wind that we expected was minimal. It was another 60 mile day. I scooted out of camp ahead of everyone else for the first time. It was a pleasant morning and I made good time. About 10 miles in I encountered my first dog chase. I was followed by a little white guy, he did not appear to serious so I just pedaled faster and put him in my rear view mirror. About 10 miles later I encountered my second dog chase of the trip. One of my companions warned me in this part of New Mexico I would see dogs off leash in small towns, and he was right. This fellow, a bigger black dog, looked serious. I stopped pedaling and talked to him and he lost interest in twenty yards or so. Neither of these dogs were truly vicious, and I hope I don’t encounter one that is.

Head wind was not a factor today, but the morning’s ride took us through fog for about ten miles. It was really unexpected. It was a dense fog and it reminded me of Seattle. We finally came out of it just a couple of miles outside of Hatch, our designated lunch stop. Hatch is noted for being the chili capital of the world, and indeed, it probably is. I spent the morning cycling through chili fields. There were many little shops selling Southwest art and fresh roasted chilis. They roast them on the spot for you. The smell was delightful. I ate lunch at Sparky’s. Sparky’s claims to server the best green chili burger in the world. So I had to try one to see of the claim had merit. It did. The burger was very good, one of the best I have every had. Of course, everything you don’t cook when you are on tour tastes good, so I might be a bit jaded in that respect. But suffice it to say, if I end up at some point within 100 miles of Hatch, I will go back to Sparky’s.

Most of the afternoon was spent following the Rio Grande River. It is a majestic, slow moving, muddy red beast. At one point near Las Cruces, I saw a couple and their dog in the middle of the river running along splashing in the muddy water. At that point at least it was not very deep, because it was a small dog and it did not seem to have any trouble running in the water. I think when it rains the river can fill up quickly. The afternoon was spent crossing many dry washes that flowed into the river.

Since today was our first day with no real mountain climbing, I decided to celebrate by buying beer for the crew. We are now eight, seven plus our leader. I bought two 6-packs of Bud and a bag of ice. I’ll get back to that in a second. (Yes, I bought Bud. There are some people in our crew that have not yet had their taste spoiled by IPAs.) Try carrying 4 panniers, a handle bar bag, two large stuff bags on the rear rack AND two 6-packs and a bag of ice. I had to carry all of this 5 miles to camp, the last mile was up hill. I made it, and the beer tasted good, I would say very good in fact.

I noticed when camp was set up tonight that a lot of people are now placing rocks and other items around their tent stakes. My practice of doing that is catching on. That is of course to make the stakes visible so people don’t trip over them - which I did all the time before I started that practice.

Miles: 60

Vertical: A few rollers.

Southern Tier - Sun Oct 6, 2019

Day 22

Get out of New Mexico day

6:06am Today marks the 1/3 completion point of the tour. At the end of the day we will be in El Paso, Texas. Getting through Texas is going to take some time, it’s a big state. The ride today will be a bit shorter distance, but negotiating the big city will slow things down just a bit. I’m on deck to cook tonight, so tonight’s post will likely be a bit shorter than normal.

So far I have enjoyed New Mexico the most. Perhaps because I’m now more accustomed to riding. There is a certain charm to New Mexico that I just didn’t feel in California or Arizona. I can’t be too critical of California or Arizona, they were beautiful, but I showed up not completely ready for mountain riding. That fact made the days longer and more heads-down than they should have been. There are some challenging climbs in both states. If you want to do the Southern Tier (and I recommend it) it pays to train for hills before arriving at the start of the ride. In all fairness to ACA, they made that perfectly clear. My life this past summer didn’t make it easy to focus on serious hill training. It should be noted however, that I am not a climber to begin with. Some people have a knack for climbing, I’m not one of them. All of that considered, I would not have traded my summer experience for extra training.

One of the cultural experiences that has come out of this journey so far is a fascination with the Apache Indians and their history. Of course there isn’t time to do a lot of reading, especially with the writing that I am trying to accomplish, but I think that once this journey comes to a conclusion I will take the opportunity to learn more about the Apaches. I do believe that I will come back to New Mexico at some point to experience that cultural history in more depth.

Just outside Las Cruces is the small town of Mesilla. It’s a bit of a tourist trap, but I still enjoined passing through. Church was just letting out. The church faces the town square, a real town square. The buildings are very old and the architecture Mexican. This town belonged to Mexico before it became part of America, and it shows. You could spend a fun day here just experience the food and shops selling local art and crafts. The old court house on the square is where Billy The Kid was convicted and sentenced to hang. Bicycle touring does not give you time to stop in a town and really soak up the atmosphere, but it does give you a very good preview of places worth returning to.

I’m staying in an old hotel in downtown El Paso that has been converted to a Hostel. Besides our group, there is a man that has just finished the Continental Divide Trail, an overland motorcyclist, a nice woman from Germany, and a young woman that has just accepted a position with the Park Service. Thirty feet down the street is a walk-down bar call “Dillinger’s.” I’m sitting there now having a Manhattan, possibly chased by a Bud, who knows. My taste in beer seems to be changing of late. Lighter brews seem to hit the spot a little better. They have photos of John Dillinger on the wall. I’m not sure what the connection between Dillinger and El Paso is, I thought he was an Indiana boy, be that as it may, the photos of John Dillinger look a lot like John Travolta.

God almighty these bar stools are hard. Could it be the 55 miles today? After many miles of travel by bicycle across three states, I finally have acquired a cyclist’s worst nightmare, a bit of chafing. This too shall pass, but you would think this would have occurred 100 miles out, not 800.

Tonight was my turn to cook. Cooks have to shop as well as cook. Tonight’s grocery stop was 4 miles before the Hostel. Everyone was waiting at the grocery store for me but I was no where in sight… I got a text from Trail Boss, “where are you?” I had over-shot the grocery store by more than 4 miles. Please don’t ask me how a semi-intelligent person can make such a bone-headed mistake, but I am here as living proof that it’s not that hard, if your bone-headed. I confessed my error and everyone at the grocery store came up with a “Plan B.” I’ll be the cook tomorrow night. When I realized my mistake I put in the address of the Hostel and to my surprise, I discovered that I was just two blocks away. This particular mistake had a happy ending. The dinner that I didn’t fix was very good too.

I have a new best friend at “Dillinger’s.” He wanted a dollar and i bought him a Budweiser instead. I guess I’m an “enabler.”

Miles: 55

Vertical: We are out of the mountains.

A third of the tour is complete. Entered Texas.

Southern Tier - Mon Oct 7, 2019

Day 23

West Texas

Today we faced a steady head wind, it turned out we were only doing 55 miles, not the 70 that I had expected. (I don’t always pay close attention in map meetings. I’m good at some details, poor at others. I call it selective cognitive dissonance.) I ate lunch in a small town at a Mexican restaurant called “Lucy’s. I had two tacos, chips and salsa, and an orange soda for $5. The food was excellent, and the salsa was hot! I ate every last bit of it! My tongue was burning. The last 15 miles I got into a pace line with one other rider. We are heading thru mostly flat country now. Being in a pace line didn’t seem to help very much, The wind was hitting us between head on and 45 degrees right. There was no shoulder on the road, so the person behind couldn’t really sit on the left side of the leader’s wheel.

I knocked dinner out of the park (again). The little Mexican grocery where I stopped to shop had everything I needed and the owner was a joy to talk to. It turns out he has vacationed in Washington so we had a lot to talk about and many laughs. He had everything we needed in his store except Starbucks coffee. I’m kidding there, actually I didn’t expect Starbucks. For coffee I had to go with instant NesCafe. The best part was the home made tortillas he sold, and the excellent chorizo. I picked out some tomatoes from his produce and he told me I couldn’t have them. He took them from me and went into the back. A minute later he came out with nicer ones!

We stayed at a community church with a kitchen. That always makes food prep much easier, rather than having to cook over small camp stoves (we carry three). I made Spanish rice, white rice, chorizo, hot pinto beans, hot refried beans, a sauté of poblano, onion, and jalapeño, fresh tomatoes, fresh cilantro, and of course the excellent tortillas. I got a couple of votes for best meal so far!

It’s not late at all, but I’m tired, so I’m going to bed. I have a great story from the bar in El Paso, but I’m too tired to write about it now. Hopefully tomorrow night I’ll be able to get to that story.

The next two days will be 74 and 75 mile days, respectively. Wind optional.

Miles: 55

Steady head wind all day.

Southern Tier - Tue Oct 8, 2019

Day 24

West Texas

Today we covered 75 miles. The first 40 were generally up hill. It was railroad grade stuff or slightly more, but for what seemed like more than half the 40 miles we dealt with the grade, the wind, or both. I stopped to eat a chili dog at mile 40, the only stop with food on the route. It’s a good thing I stopped, because the next 25 miles was more of the same. The last 10 miles of the route was on I-10 and I was pushing dusk hard when I got off I-10 and arrived in Van Horn, our destination for the day. I’m now in the Central Time Zone and have traveled over 1,000 miles.

I plan to write about why I’m doing this trip before I reach St. Augustine. Perhaps I’ll take up that bit of house keeping on my next day of rest, which mercifully is tomorrow. Today will be another 75 miles with 2/3 of it general climbing. I started about an hour behind everyone else because I was the cook. I also wanted to do some writing, and I was just generally poking around. I was fortunate to catch the leaders of the pack at the grocery store in Van Horn. If I had waited any longer to start in the morning, I would have been riding after sunset which is not a really sharp idea.

I’d like to say a few words about equipment. You can find photos on Instagram (@badkins65). Up front, I have a classic randonneur bag. It’s a great idea, but the fit is a bit off. It’s too close to the handle bars, so it prevents me from placing my hands on the top of the bar comfortably. That’s actually a big deal when you are on tour. The bag has a short future in my life once this tour is over. I love it and I hate it. It does a fair job of holding my maps, but they still get wet in a down-pour. Inside the map case on the top, I carry the tapestry book mark that Emma gave me last summer when she returned from her trip to Turkey. I love looking down at that. The first 1,000 miles of this tour I found myself looking at it quite a bit.

In the back I have two panniers, and all the “sleeping” gear, tent and accessories. It feels like too much in the back, but it all seems to work. When one of our company dropped off the tour a week ago, I inherited the large cook pot he was carrying. The only way I could manage that little gem was to strap it onto the back of the bike, it’s too big to fit in my panniers. I don’t have the gigantic oversized panniers that some are hauling. At first I was a little annoyed about carrying the thing, it’s not exactly aesthetically pleasing to the eye. It makes me look like Jed Clampett heading out to California after finding oil on his land in Texas. All that aside, I have grown quite fond of it. It turns out to be very useful. Today I carried a loaf of bread and my lunch in it. Probably the best feature though is it’s ability to hold 12 cans of beer, with ice!

Since yesterday was such a hard day, I had to stay focused on the work and didn’t spend as much time looking for photo opportunities as I usually do. I did have a pleasing experience with a train. As I was rolling along with tracks on my left, I heard a short whistle from an oncoming train. There was no intersection so I assumed the whistle was a simple greeting intended for me. As the train went by I raised my arm and gave the Engineer a big wave. I got another whistle in return. That was pretty cool. The Engineer was sending me a personalized greeting. Simple things on the road can make your day. That one certainly did.

Miles: 74

Vertical: I wasn’t expecting vertical today, the rollers kicked my ass.

One of my favorite photos so far.