85 Miles in 6 1/2 hours. That is as fast as I have ever gone bicycle touring. When you eat a bunch of food, sleep under a roof, and crack your head on the pavement, it makes things go better. That is empirical.
I had a long, fast, freezing downhill for the first 9 miles followed by a bitter, slow, freezing 3-mile climb. Over the climb I dropped down onto ” The Flats” which took me all the way to the Rio Grande. That 15 miles or so to Caballo had a killing crosswind to go with it, free of charge.
From Caballo I headed south and the sidewind became a huge 20 mile an hour tailwind. Sweet, I thought, I am going to knock out the remaining 50 miles in no time at all. Somehow, a tailwind makes you forget about 30° temperatures.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened, probably sometime around Hatch, but the howling tailwind magically became a howling headwind with 36 miles left to pedal. While I was tanking up on ice cream and Gatorade, sitting on the sidewalk in the sunshine, the soda pop delivery man came by and put his dolly in the truck.
Are you cold, he asked.
No, I said. It feels pretty good sitting here in the sunshine. How many miles do you drive in a day?
I have no idea. I work 10 to 12 hours a day.
That must be some good overtime, I said.
He laughed ruefully. We don’t get overtime, we just get a salary.
That’s fucked up, I said. How can they not pay you overtime?
I don’t know, he said. Somehow or other they don’t.
Are you guys union? I ask.
No. The company told us that if we were union and we went on strike the union only pays $100. I couldn’t live on $100.
The company is lying to you. If you had a union you would have an hourly wage and they would have to pay you overtime and you’d make at least double what you’re making right now is my guess.
Yeah, he said. The company she doesn’t like unions. Hey man are you thirsty?
No, I’m okay. I just had this Gatorade.
Maybe so, but you’re gonna be thirsty out here, take a couple of these. He handed me two more.
Hey man, thanks, I said. You don’t have to do that.
No, but I want to. You have a good day and I hope you arrive safely, wherever you’re going.
He drove away and I stowed the two drinks in my backpack. It was a good feeling, having somebody concerned about me, so concerned that they wanted to give me something to drink. It’s nice to give, but you know what? It’s also pretty nice to receive.
After leaving Hatch, I had to really fight the headwind. For the first 20 miles it was okay but then the ice cream and the Gatorade ran out and the remaining 16 miles seemed like they were going to take forever.
This part of New Mexico is stunningly beautiful. The skies are so blue and the terrain is so rugged that is a perfect postcard around every turn. Of course on many of the roads, which are straight for miles and miles and miles, turns don’t come very often. And just when you start to think that it is as mindless and torturous as sitting on a trainer, some extraordinary vista will open up and you will be reminded of the grandeur and beauty that is New Mexico.
With about 16 miles to go the ride became character building. This was a day when much character would be constructed, I told myself. After crossing the Rio Grande again I saw a man walking in the opposite direction. He was miles from anywhere. I turned around and went over to him. His name was Roy.
Where are you going? I asked.
That is a solid 20 miles from here, I said.
Yeah, I know.
Are you trying to hitch a ride?
No, he said. No one will pick up hitchhikers anymore. It’s too dangerous.
The weather doesn’t look good, I said. It’s supposed to drop down into the 20s again tonight and it may rain or snow.
Yeah, I know, he said.
What are you gonna do? I have food. The delivery driver back in Hatch gave me a couple of bottles of Gatorade. Why don’t you take them?
I’ll be okay.
Maybe. But you might not be okay. You might be cold and hungry and wet and thirsty. So why don’t you take the Powerade. Do you have any money?
I gave him $10.
Here, I said. Maybe you can find somebody who will give you a ride in exchange for a few bucks.
Don’t you need it?
No. But you do.
Then, with the diffidence that I have seen in so many people who are clearly in need but who are nonetheless resistant to taking help he said, well you don’t look like you’re doing so great either and I don’t want to take your last $10.
It’s not my last $10, and I may look like shit, but I’m on this bicycle and it will get me to Las Cruces in less than an hour. So please it’s a gift from my friend.
Roy took the money and thanked me with a sincerity that I have seen over and over and over since I started passing on these dollars, a genuine appreciation for something that is worth just a little bit more than a large fancy froufrou drink at Starbucks or a couple gallons of gas.
Those last 16 miles proved exceedingly miserable. I got into town and booked a cheapo room for 56 bucks right next to the freeway. The weather looked terrible and I was freezing by the time I got into my hotel room even with all my clothing, that’s how quickly the temperature drops out here in the desert at 4000 feet.
I wondered about Roy. I’m still wondering about him.