Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March, 29, 2009  Somewhere outside of Del Rio, TX

It's really 4/31, but we haven't had internet service for a few days, and today we don't have cell phone service.  Not to worry about us forgetting any of the details of the day however, as our ride from Sanderson to Del Rio was a kind of perfect storm of really nasty riding conditions, turning it into an infamous ride.  We had long mileage (111), a hilly terrain, very monotonous scenery in my book, really bumpy chip seal road surface and the real killer, a horrific head wind that didn't let up for the entire day.  Our group has pilots and sailors and the general agreement is that the wind was coming at us at 25 mph, gusting to 30.  It took me 7 hours to go 60 miles when I gleefully joined my buddies in the van for the rest of the way in.  We are all feeling like we are still recovering to some degree, 2 days later.  The most difficult part of it for me was the unrelenting sound of the wind, which I've never expereinced.  Guess I wouldn't have made a very good prairie pioneer woman....Below is the only picture I took that day.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hello from Sanderson, TX, where having internet access, cell phone towers and a laundromat are all unexpected pleasant surprises.  The town is on Rt 90 in the Southwest part of Texas, Terrell County to be exact.  It has been very dry here for the last few years and when it rains, flash floods are the big concern.  The owner of the Roadhouse Cafe in town told us the tale of the flood of 1965 which occurred in the middle of the night, wiping away much of the town and with it 20 residents.  The amazing piece is that they had no rain here in Sanderson at all, the flood waters came from further on up the line.  We are getting quite an education in so many diverse areas as we ride and chat with people along the way.

Our 56 mile ride was of note mainly because other than those in cars that were passing us, the only living things besides plants and birds were a couple of curious cows who stopped mid-chew to stare at us.  There were no houses, convenience stores, gas stations, just some amazing rock formations, beautiful wildflowers, lots of turkey vultures and the road out ahead.  It was really remarkable in it's starkness.  

More when it happens.....Peggy

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hi Everyone - It's March 27, Day 22 of our journey.  The day dawned cold (36 degrees) as we traipsed down to the trailer to load our bags and check our bikes before heading out.  It was hard to leave the Indian Lodge.  Most of us were sporting out warmest clothes, from shoe covers to down jackets when we pulled out, and we ended up needing them for the entire day, as the wind was really a force to be reckoned with.  We're presently in Marathon, TX., the gateway to Big Bend National Park, all warmed after one of Linda our fabulous cook's terrific meals.  Hope you enjoy the pics, and will write more when we hit another cyber friendly hotel.  Best, Peggy
It was a really rich wildlife day.  These Pronged horned Antelope were lazily munching away as we rode by and disrupted their tranquility by taking a few pics.  Further on down the road, and on a downhill that was just too pleasant to abandon, were what I thought were a herd (about 30+) of Elk, later confirmed by one of our guides whose knowledge of the Texan fauna is much better than mine.  We also watched either a chase or a mating ritual by a couple of hawks,  and saw lots of new wildflowers.  Fun!!
Things have flattened out, the better for the wind to whip.  We were blessed with a tail wind for about 20 miles of today's 60 miles, allowing us to move along at up to @ 22 mph, and riding in the big wheel for much of the day.  Pretty exciting, eh?
Although this pic doesn't adequately show it, we pretty much invaded this small, very cool coffee shop in Alpine, TX., descending on the place in full cold weather biking gear, including a pair of red shoe covers, balaclavas, screaming yellow windbreakers and with rear view mirrors attached to our biking goggles.  We really stood out!  As usually happens, conversations with  local folk usually ensue and we all are more enlightened.  And we usually leave the place well depleted of food, so we assume we're quite popular.  Our metabolisms are so revved up that eating is one of the mainstays of our lives these days.  This will make re-entry quite a challenge......
We fought with some amazing cross winds in the final 5 or so miles into Marathon, TX where we are wonderfully housed at the Gage Hotel.  It was built in 1926 for Alfred S. Gage, a native Vermonter who became one of the largest cattlemen in the Trans -Pecos region.  The hotel is chock full of all things Texan...
Here I am, looking on down the road for the rest of our gang.  Also, voici my new Silver City NM haircut.
The Indian Lodge at Davis State Park was built by the CCC in 1933, and is nestled in a valley where turkey vultures soar, the stars are unobstructed by city lights and javelinas come out at dusk and prance around.  Since internet and cell phone usage was limited, we were really able to bask in the tranquility of the place, and for an extra day as well.
Several of us toured the McDonald Observatory on our rest day.  Here's the view from their perch atop the Davis Mountains.
Here's one of the telescopes that we saw on our tour.  The guide was among the best I have ever seen on any tour anywhere.  If you're ever in the Davis Mountains, this is not to be missed!
The ride from Van Horn to Fort Davis was our toughest day yet, many of us agree, due primarily to an incredibly strong head wind for the middle part of the 90 mile day.  And I had a flat on Interstate 10, right close to the Michigan Flat exit!  It was the first time I have ever changed a flat, and I had a pit crew who talked me through it, and generally made it a top notch character building experience.  We were really happy to spy the McDonald Observatory, part of the U of Texas, en route as it signaled the end of our ride and a rest day at the Indian Lodge in Davis State Park.
A bloomin yucca at the Indian Lodge, Davis State Park, Fort Davis, TX.  There were also javelinas who came trotting out of the bush at dusk, kind of a cross between a wild pig and a wharthog.  A mule deer was grazing about 10 feet from me as I was trying to do some late afternoon bird watching.  This is great!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Greetings from Van Horn (the H is silent...) Texas, which we flew into on a fabulous tail wind today from the very windy Fort Hancock, 74 miles away.  We lost yet another hour with the time change, and have completed over 1000 miles of the trip thus far, which just doesn't seem possible.  We'll ride a 90 mile day tomorrow and then settle in Fort Davis, TX for a rest day.  The skies continue to be blue and today the temps were in the 60's, a bit on the cool side and perfect for riding.  This sign was along I-10 which we rode on for a few miles today, actually a welcome relief from the bumpy back road that we'd been riding for most of the morning.  All is well, we're feeling stronger by the day and are learning to swing with our new lifestyle of getting up every morning with cycling the main thing on the 'to do' list for the whole day!  See you when the cyber muses cooperate.  Happy Trails to you....  Peggy

We've passed dozens of pecan orchards like this one, sometimes getting a whiff of a pecan or two as we wizz by.  One of the beauties of cycling is that you not only see things up close, but often smell them as well.  This does not always translate to pleasurable things, but I've discovered that alfalfa is a treat to sniff on the road, and the orange blossoms in California were pure heaven.  These orchards are irrigated and look flooded for awhile before the water settles into the roots.  We've been passing countless irrigation systems since the trip began.  Recently the cotton crop has been planted in NM and the part of Texas we're now in.  I won't say this out loud but we have yet to see a drop of rain, so it's easy to see why irrigation is needed for everything in this climate.
Following are a few photos of our first good look at a Mission, on the way to Fort Hancock from El Paso, TX.  This one, San Socorro, was built in the 1640's, then flooded out when the Rio Grande rose above it's banks, permantly changing it's course from one side of the town to the other.  The Mission was rebuilt and is very beautiful.  Hanging in the hallway in an adjacent building (with a good restroom - we never pass those up!) was a beautiful photo of Dorothy Day, peace and homeless advocate, founder of the Catholic Worker and grandmother of 2 of my neighbors.  It felt really good to have a reminder of home and my wonderful neighborhood.
This mission was established by a Frenchman whose name is close to Elizario, also in the mid 17th Century.   A fire destroyed the original building which was constructed in the mid 17th Century.  Photos follow....
I am committed to eating as much Mexican food as possible on this trip and the possibilities abound!!  Yesterday we all stopped at a small restaurant where Crystal was our waitress, and her grandmother ran the restaurant.  This is our cycling colleague Marilyn, and this is her second cross country trip.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hello from Fort Hancock, Texas, where we have lit for the night after a rather short ride from last night's stay in El Paso.  We all sort of considered today's ride to be  a kind of play day as the mileage was short (46) and the wind at our tails.  Presently, the wind is HOWLING  outside, the dust blowing around so much that it is hard to see across the street.  In my Vermont mind, this can only mean that a noreaster is on the way, however my bicycle computer registered 100 degrees today after lunch so I guess not.  Pictures of today to follow tomorrow as again, internet service is slightly sketchy, but we do have cell phone coverage, so life is good!  Gotta go - dinner is almost ready.
Many of us are really missing our animals so we really go crazy when some come onto our radar screens.  Here are Pepper and Charlie who live at the Black Range Lodge which you'll read more about in later posts.  Charlie is part Welsh Corgie like my Speedy, so this was a really special treat.  He followed us down the road the morning that we departed, wagging the whole way.
This open air porch was part of my room at the Lodge.  It had a resident cat who kept me company.  
Here is our host Katherine in the kitchen of the wonderful Black Range Lodge.  She is also a straw bale house construction officianado.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hello all you blog readers!

I've been too tired to type or make any sort of coherent re-telling of the days events for the last 2 days.  We are currently in El Paso - YES, another state crossing!!- and the internet service is rather slow.  As it is dinner time, ( and we never miss any of the fabulous chef Linda's meals...) I will have to retrace the post climb days at another point.  Suffice it to say that all is very well, I continue to have the time of my life and heartily recommend seeing this amazing country from a bicycle seat.  More soon!     Best, Peggy
As you can see, the flora changed dramatically as we climbed up to Emory Pass.  No more cacti for awhile and the smell of the pines was dizzying.  I heard lots of Pileated Woodpeckers and even a couple of Cedar Waxwings, which was a surprise.
Were we ever high when we reached this summit!!!  We had been riding for about 5-6 hours, spread out along the route.  As I was approaching the summit, I heard cheers welcoming my cycling sisters, so I knew I was close.  Much hugging and sheer exhilaration followed.  This is the highest point on the trip, so we were all very happy to be able to do it rather than thinking about doing it!  The descent was 8 miles long and really as beautiful as the climb, maybe moreso....  We stopped a few times to let our rims cool off so as to hopefully prevent any blowouts.  There were a few very small snow piles on the side of the road and we dragged out our cold weather gear for the chilly trip downhill.  Our resting place for the night was perfect - The Black Range Lodge in Kingston, NM, pop. 'oh, about 30'.  It's beauty and warmth were unsurpassed, to say nothing of the incredible meals whipped up with the artistry and precision team work of the owners/ staff.  The 2 dogs Pepper and Charley rounded out the wonderfulness of the place - we all hated to leave.  More photos to follow, but if any of you are ever in the neighborhood, this place is not to be missed!
More photos from the fabulous rest day in Silver City, NM.  Here are my riding buddy Elizabeth and I after a scrumptous lunch at one of the many good eateries in this town.  Also many art galleries and 2 bike shops where I picked up the first of my 'states I've biked through' socks for my collection.  They are red and yellow with the NM emblem on them.  What will Alabama have for sock logos I wonder....  This is the last photo of me with 'long' hair as shortly after this pic was taken, I headed on over to Ego Trip where Margie cut my hair for a more biker (actually 'helmet') friendly do.  I thoroughly enjoyed Margie and my fellow patrons, felt like I was one of them by the time I left.  We found Silver Citians to be unusually helpful and friendly.  I'm actually in El Paso at the moment, trying to post after 2 days of sheer exhaustion post ride (a 5200 ft climb followed by a very hot 90 mile day.)  The internet is slow here, so will have to post more Silver City photos later.    On to the climbing day!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Here we are  in the wonderful, artsy, full of fabulous eating and latte drinking possibilities town of Silver City, NM.  It has been 3 days since my last post and I confess that I was just too fagged to even attempt to be coherent enough to make an intelligible contribution.   In addition to the gradual and not so gradual climbing that we did yesterday (45 miles) the previous day was 75 miles and in full hot sun.  Those of you who know me well are well aware of my shade seeking behaviors, which I have been unable to indulge in for the last few riding days, contributing to the fatigue.  I actually have heat rash on my thighs despite being a maniac about keeping up with the SPF 70.   Also, the opportunities to score an afternoon latte have been nil until we rode on into Silver City. Here, the proprietor of Java the Hut actually helped me measure the size of a latte so as for me to be able to carry it in one of my water bottle carriers up the hill to the hotel.  And it worked!!  Pure heaven, I'm pushing for it to be the ideal replacement drink after chocolate milk at the end of a day's ride. 

We are having a much anticipated and deserved REST DAY after an 8 day stretch of riding.  It is so luxurious to eat a leisurely breakfast and look forward to a day of the mundane errand running (by bike or foot) activities that need to be done to make the riding days go smoothly. So, here are a few brief shots of where we will be hanging out for the day,  making sure to hydrate well today in preparation for tomorrows climb to Emory Pass.  Our cue sheet for the day boasts that 'it's all downhill to Florida!'   Best to all of you out there in cyberland.  I can finally open my comments (!!!) and REALLY enjoyed each and every one.  Still don't know how to respond but may just figure that out by the next rest day!  Thanks to one and all for the encouraging phone calls, e-mails and comments - they truely make a huge difference.  You are all in my thoughts on those long stretches in the saddle.  My best to everyone.

The word is that this is a copper mine.  If you look closely, there is a dump truck somewhere in the upper half of the pic, probably a white dot.  I am reminded of the Charlize Theron movie about the woman who drove heavy machinery in a mining community and the hazards therein.  A killer hill awaited me after this photo opp.  We all have different climbing speeds, mine being slow.  My average speed of 9mph for the entire day yesterday was boosted by a couple of hair raising speedy downhills.  I am amazed at some of my colleagues who seem to fly up these steep inclines.
Yippee!!  This was our highest point in the trip thus far but our true trip summit will happen tomorrow at Emory Pass.  We descended down to 5900 ft into Silver City, the home of Billy the Kid and site of his first arrest for stealing money from a Chinese laundry. 
We're seeing green trees for the first time in a long while here in the hills of NM, headed towards Silver City.  We climbed 3700 ft today and many of us noticed the effects of a little less O2.
Our terrain has been flat and really desolate for the last 2 days through the tail end of AZ and into NM.  There were virtually no places to even get water for miles and miles, thus the importance of having regular SAG stops. (More info further on down the blog).  Our daily cue sheets are short, with one having us go straight for 63 miles before having to make a turn!  We like these no thinking days where all you have to do is pedal, drink, eat, grease up regularly with sunscreen and lip gloss and stretch.  Most of us also use some form of electrolyte replacement drink or tablet too.
Hooray!  Another state line crossed, we are now in New Mexico and anticipating our traditional state line crossing Margarita party tonight before dinner.
Here's Marcie at Old Joe's Cafe in Duncan, AZ., then the parking lot outside.  About 100 feet from Old Joe's is a nasty set of railroad tracks that was responsible for 2 members of our group taking a fall.  Both had only minor injuries fortunately.  We're all more sensitized to  one of the common cycling hazards now.
More road scenes en route to Lordsburg, NM.  Here are Marnie and Jan, two of my cycling sisters.  They are both from the general SW region and are my main informers about local botanicals.  This truck (following pic) is only $4000. OBO!  The adjoining alfalfa field was the first bit-o-green that we'd seen in a very long time.
Pre-dawn moon over MotherShip, Safford, AZ.  We are travelling with 2 WomanTour support vehicles.  This one is a combo travelling kitchen/luggage compartment and general great provider where essentials like duct tape, Superglue, travelling library, cooler with cold re-entry drinks and our mealtime plastic chairs are stored.  We all load our luggage into it each morning before heading out.  For some reason, it's much heavier when we pick it up at the end of our riding day...The van that pulls it seats a lot of people and has a multi-capacity bike rack on top.  The other vehicle is a white Subaru station wagon, the proverbial SAG wagon, which we anxiously scan the horizon for when we are close to semi-scheduled 20 mile marks throughout the day.  We have 4 fantastic SAG drivers who rotate between riding and driving.  They carry water, food, sunscreen and other necessary creature comforts and we descend on them like vultures when they come into view.
Yes, it's a tough life, getting up each day to spend it in the out of doors taking in one beautiful vista after another as you move slowly through the landscape.  I have been reminded of  "Arizona Highways' magazine countless times - is it still published?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hello from Globe, AZ, which is @ elevation of 3500 ft and our resting place after a day of climbing up to 4600 ft and then down again of course.  Love those downhills!  We really felt accomplished when we pulled in  this afternoon.  I'm posting after a 2 day lull this time as the internet service was uncooperative last night when we roosted in Apache Junction, just ouside of Phoenix.  It's been a diverse couple of days...... I'm well, feeling really great and really lucky and really  grateful to be on this trip, seeing amazing sites at every turn and having my boundaries stretched.  We rode @ 56 hilly miles today and leave tomorrow morning for an 83 mile ride to Safford, AZ, our last night in this beautiful state.  Here's what the last couple of days have been like.......
Who let the cattle out?  We later learned that they were all successfully returned to their pasture and the fence repaired.