Chapter 12 Settling In For Winter
We’re sticking to interstate 10 across New Mexico because of a snow storm to the north. Zippy can go in a dusting of snow, but not much more. The signs say bicycles are prohibited, but we don’t have a reasonable option. We’ve seen a couple of state patrol cars and they have ignored us.
The most exciting thing that happened today was communing with a coyote. Claire saw him and we stopped. He looked at us and we decided to talk to him; we howled and whined and whistled, all in an attempt to interest him. He watched us for a while, turned his back and trotted away, probably thinking humans are very strange.
It has been cold, with lows in the low 20’s and highs in the 40’s. It is nearly the solstice, and we’re gaining elevation every day; we expected worse. We’ve been treating ourselves to motels the last couple of nights; Christmas indulgence. Our 60 mile days take much of the available daylight, and we don’t relish setting up camp when it is almost dark (it gets cold fast in this dry climate) and then being in a cramped tent for 14 hours. We do usually manage to get to our destination by 3:30 p.m., but allowing an hour for the unforeseen makes that late enough.
We miss Texas, already. The bike breakdown sort of left us feeling incomplete about it. We missed part of our route, and Big Bend. We’ll have to come back for sure now. Lots of people said Texas was so big they hated driving across it, let alone bike across it. We took the longest way possible, all the way south to Brownsville and up the Rio Grande, 1300 miles, yet never felt bored, never felt that the days were long.
Another thing I heard about Texas was that Texans were egotistical and big talkers. Not so. We found them to be among the most friendly of the trip, and good listeners, as well as good story-tellers.
I remember writing, as we entered Texas, that I was ready for the state to destroy all my preconceptions. Did it ever.
Sixty-one miles, at an average of 17 mph; our continental divide day was much easier than anticipated; that nice little tailwind didn’t hurt either. Comfortable and mostly sunny; maybe we’ll miss the worst of winter yet.
We saw a change from the Chihuahuan Desert flora and the far horizon rounded more; isolated mountain ranges floated gray on the westering plain, like ships on a sea.
We are staying in Lordsburg at another of those modest hotels run by Americans of East Indian descent. Modest and economical, but clean. Down the street is another motel bearing a large sign we have been seeing since entering New Mexico; “American Owned.” Near that sign is another of the motel’s signs reading, “He Is Risen. Today Is The Day Of Salvation.” Interesting juxtaposition. I think Jesus would stay with the East Indians, and so, we do.
What a solstice celebration we had December 21. First there was the cold rain that soaked us, soon followed by the snow, then more cold rain. We were wet and cold and getting a little concerned, when we saw a truck stop off in the distance. We were shivering by the time we parked Zippy by the restaurant.
We ate breakfast and warmed ourselves and then rode on to Bowie, Arizona, where we found a gas station/RV park.
There is no snow on the ground here, but the snowline in the mountains is not very high. It is very cold. In the camp store, we watched a Tucson television station make a big deal about the snow in Southeast Arizona. Seems this weather is extremely rare here.
Solstice actually arrives at 1:15 am tomorrow. The days will soon be getting longer. I remember worrying last year about our winter; the short days and long nights, the cold and darkness. It hasn’t been nearly as bad as I thought, though there have been some problems associated with getting in our miles, weather and increased costs.
We are usually tired enough to sleep the long hours of darkness, and morning seems to come at about the right time. It helps that we are committed snuggle-bugs. We never tire of keeping each other warm. We spoon-snuggle, flipping over in unison often so no side gets cold, and muscles don’t get too cramped.
All I have to do, to signal Claire to flip, is grunt a bit and start the rotation myself and she follows, never waking. She says it works like that for me too. Snuggling is one of life’s more wonderful pleasures, and it is made better by camping in the cold.
Next morning, our tent was heavy with frost; it was bitter cold, but sunny. A roadrunner wandered into the campground, our first. I chased him with the camera, but he was faster. Wily E. Coyote was nowhere to be seen. Just before dawn I heard an owl calling from the desert. Must have been a burrowing owl.
On the road later, we rounded up a herd of steers with trusty steed Zippy. Claire hollered “Git along doggies!”, and they just ran down the fence line kicking up dust. This cowboy stuff isn’t very hard.
We are doing 65 mile days, despite the abbreviated daylight. The hills are all middle chainring and what little wind we have had has been from the rear. Heavenly.