Harry on his Bike

Days 22-24

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Day 22. September 25
     I woke up early and checked my e-mail using AOL's 1-800 number,
and then sent some pictures to my son Barry. To send a picture
directly to yahoo takes about 10 minutes per picture, and sometimes
I lose connection part way through and have to start over. Barry came
up with a better system: I send a picture to him as an attachment
(about 5 minutes per picture), and then he posts them to yahoo using
a connection that takes less than a half-minute per picture.
     Checking the Cortez restaurant guide, I found a truck-stop a few
miles out of town that had an attractive menu. The temperature was
27 degrees, the lowest I've yet seen on this trip, so I put on my Gore-Tex
jacket and pants (which serve as an excellent windbreaker) and my heavy
gloves and set out. The five miles to the truck-stop was just enough to
make me ready for some biscuits and gravy.
     I parked the bike, took off my gloves, went in, sat down, and picked
up a menu. This horrible smell suddenly hit me. I looked around, and
saw that a fellow at the next table had biscuits and gravy. What did they
put into that gravy---roadkill? Since the odor was enough to gag a
maggot I thought about getting up and moving on, when suddenly I
realized with horror that the smell was coming from my hands. It took
me a few seconds to realize that, although I would wash all my biking
clothes every night (and I had taken another shower that morning), I
never thought to wash my heavy biking gloves. Three weeks of fermenting
sweat finally made itself known. I rushed to the restroom, washed my
hands, and decided I'd have the biscuits and gravy after all. They were
     Some restaurants that are frequented by the same customers every
day develop a problem: A person will come in, order coffee (which normally
comes with unlimited refills), and occupy a chair for hours, chewing the fat
with their buddies. Some places post a sign that says something like
"Coffee, 50 cents, refills 50 cents" although whenever I have breakfast
in such a place I'm never charged for refills because they know I'm not
part of the problem. This restaurant had decided to add humor. On the
menu it said:
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
        3 cups, 65 cents
        1 full hour, $1.50
        Half the morning, $2.50
        All Morning, $3.50
        All Day, $5.00
           (All Day allows for one hour to go home for lunch)
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
     I finished breakfast, put my filthy gloves back on, and headed south
on highway 666. My destination was Bloomfield, and my choices for
getting there were to go east to Durango and then south, or south to
Shiprock and then east. The distances were about the same, but I
chose the latter because there was an Indian casino a few miles south
of Cortez and I wanted to pick up a chip for my collection. I made the
slight detour, bought my chip, and rejoined the highway. The landscape
had occasional flat mesas with steep-cliff borders,  reminding me
of the features of Monument Valley, only a few miles to the west. About
an hour later I spotted Shiprock (the land-mark, not the town). 
The impressive peak sticking up from the plain is the remnant of the hardened
interior of an old volcano, the softer exterior having been eroded away
long ago.
     I had entered the Navaho Nation when crossing the border into New
Mexico. There were many Trading Posts, and stores along the road
that said "pawn", perhaps leading tourists into believing that they could
stop and take advantage of some Indian's poverty by picking up a rug at
a bargain price. Having no room for such a treasure, I pressed on.
     The highway had been friendly, with a wide smooth shoulder, until I
entered Farmington. Bloomfield was another 13 miles, and between
those towns the shoulder was so rough that I moved onto the highway
and claimed my lane, moving back to the shoulder only when my helmet-
mounted mirror showed that some truck approaching from the rear was
reluctant to move into the left lane. I received no blasts from horns, and
so kept intact my perfect record of no unpleasant encounters with other
     Finally I arrived in Bloomfield, and was happy to see a sign that read
          N     ICE & CLEAN
          TV   PHONE   26.95
Great. They even have ice. I picked up orange juice and bananas at
the local supermarket, went back and got a room. Then I asked for
some ice. Sorry, no ice. But your sign says ICE. No, it says NICE
and the wind blew the N to the left. Well, it turns out the room had
a refrigerator, and my bottle of orange juice placed in the freezer cooled
     The lady that sold me the room recommended the Triangle Cafe,
saying that all her customers had said it was good. Her customers
were right. I had the special: green chili stew over buns with fries and
salad bar, and the last piece of a delicious German chocolate cake.
I know where I'll be eating breakfast.

Day 23. September 26
     From Bloomfield the distance to Albuquerque is 175 miles, with the
small town of Cuba at the half-way mark. Two long days should do it.
     The friendly people at the Triangle Cafe served me an excellent
breakfast, after which I walked back to the motel and started biking as
soon as it was light. For a few miles I had the highway almost all
to myself. 
     I had been warned that there was heavy construction on Highway
44 all the way to Bernalillo, only 18 miles from Albuquerque. Although
this can be bad news for a car, for a bicycle it could be a godsend.
And it was, for there were long stretches where two lanes of the four-
lane highway under construction were completed, but not opened
to traffic because work was still being done on finishing touches, such
as culverts or line painting. On those stretches I would leave the cramped
lanes on which normal traffic was flowing and ride on the new glassy-
smooth asphalt surface.  Occasional trucks or pickups associated
with the construction would pass me, but we'd wave at each other and
I never got the impression I was in the way.
     The day warmed quickly, I soon shed my outer clothes, and began
consuming lots of water. After 40 miles I stopped at the first sign of life:
a convenience store. After buying a dollar-bottle of grape juice I asked
where I might fill up my water bottles. The young Indian lady said nowhere
around here, because they had to haul in their water. "How much farther
down the road?" I asked. "Cuba", she replied. I didn't believe her, so
went on without buying bottled water, and within a couple of miles I came
to a gas station with a small cafe. It was close to noon, so I entered and
bought an excellent BLT (only $2.10) that came with the equivalent of half
a large package of potato chips. I also filled my bottles with ice water.
     After leaving a dollar tip to the busy Indian woman who manned the
grill, I exited and had a conversation with a local man. When he found
that I had biked from Bloomfield he remarked that it was quite a climb.
I agreed, and pointed to my altimeter that showed an elevation of 7200
feet, 1700 feet higher than the 5500 feet at Bloomfield. He then told me
"to Cuba is all downhill". My skepticism was not unfounded, for though
the first five miles were downhill, 20 miles later I was at an elevation of
7450 feet, with another 20 miles to go.
     My biking surface continued to alternate between stretches of new
construction I had all to myself and the two-lane narrow road on which
car and truck traffic flowed. It was on such a narrow road that I detected
a low front tire. The leak was obviously very slow, so I decided to try to
make Cuba and fix it in the comfort of a motel room. I biked on for
another couple of miles, monitoring its appearance, and finally decided
it was time to pump it up. But I had waited too long, for as I began a
gentle turn to the left, planning on stopping at a clearing on the other
side of the road, the front wheel suddenly shifted on the low tire (almost
sliding off the rim) and my center of gravity was suddenly about four
inches farther left than it should be. Within a second I was out of control,
and fell on my left side, sliding along the asphalt for a few feet, with the
bicycle and its contents on top of me. The left side of my head had
slapped against the pavement but (for the fourth time in the past 15
years) my helmet kept me from receiving any head injury.
     The closest cars were about 300 feet away, and had plenty of time
to stop. By the time the first arrived I had gotten to my feet, moved the
bicycle to the side of the road, and retrieved the couple of items that had
fallen out of the handlebar bag side pockets. I was bleeding from several
scrapes on my left arm, but I could tell that nothing was broken. The
crash must have looked spectacular because of the loaded bike, but
I was moving less than 10 miles per hour when it happened. One car
sped on by, but the second stopped and the driver asked if I was OK.
I assurred him I was OK and I thanked him for stopping. He hesitated
for a few seconds, confirming my diagnosis, but was finally convinced
and drove on. I used a bit of my precious water to wash my wounds,
and then pumped up the front tire. Starting out again, I was relieved to
find that my injuries didn't seem to affect my biking, and I had absolutely
no pain. (Was I in shock? No, the injuries were very minor.)
     The last few miles into Cuba were mostly downhill, and I only had to
stop a couple of times to inflate the tire, which I never let get nearly as
low as its pre-crash level. Coming into Cuba I was happy to see a motel,
since the small dot on the map gave no clue to the probability that the
town might have a motel. I biked on, hoping there was another closer to
the center of town, and my gamble paid off (very handsomely, as you will
see later) when I spotted the Del Prado Motel.
     I pulled in, and the friendly lady said that I could have the last room
for $22 plus tax. That was the lowest price I'd seen on the trip, and I
asked to see the room, a bit fearful of what I might find. She took across
the parking lot to show it, and I expressed my relief at seeing a huge
suite with three beds and a kitchen by saying "This room is beautiful!"
She obviously was pleased, and we went back to the office to fill out the
paperwork. While filling in the form she said, "About once a month I
prepare a dinner for my long-time guests, and I would like for you to
come. No charge. It is a buffet, served here in the office." Well, that
was a welcome invitation, because I'd grown a bit weary of searching for
suitable restaurants. She said to come over around seven, but at 6:40
my phone rang, and she said to come anytime. I'd already cleaned up,
and was working on fixing my flat, so I put on my dress sweats and went
     What a beautiful meal Jeanie had prepared!  She had spent the
entire day cooking eight different dishes, baking bread, and making a
huge cake with pink frosting. The dishes included Korean, Chinese,
Mexican, and Italian selections, and every one was outstanding (I sampled
them all, and had seconds on several). I was the first to show up, and
another dozen people came, several of them workers on the highway
construction who had been residents for several months. The conversation
revealed that they always looked forward to these meals, the best they
would have during the entire month. Jeanie used to run a restaurant,
but then she and her husband decided to get the motel, which also
has a gift- and flower-shop. The diners of Cuba were the losers in that
move; I was a fortunate winner. We each were also given a beautiful
calendar, which I carefully rolled so it would survive the trip to
     I believe that my invitation was precipitated by my favorable comment
about her room. Jeanie obviously takes pride in all her undertakings.
Her husband is a lucky man.
     After offering sincere thanks for her hospitality, I returned to my room
and finished fixing the flat. Too tired to watch TV (even though I had a
remote), I crawled into bed and rolled onto my left side. OUCH! My hip
was very sore.

Day 24. September 27
     Albuquerque was attracting me like a magnet pulling on a rusty nail.
While it was still dark I went to the restaurant next door and had wonderful
eggs and homefries. Light was just appearing in the east as I returned to
the room for final packing.
     It had rained during the night so I prepared for wet biking: Gore-Tex
outerware, and sandwich bags secured with rubber bands over the
cyclecomputers. However, apart from some easily-dodged puddles in
the road, my ride was dry. The few clouds remaining in the sky were
non-threatening. A gentle tailwind helped me, and the construction
zones were friendly as well. I averaged 14 miles per hour all the way
to Bernalillo.
     I stopped briefly to pick up a chip at the Santa Ana Indian casino,
where the very friendly poker-room manager tried to convince me that I
should join the dealer's choice game that was just starting. I was
tempted, and resisted mainly because I didn't want to play while worried
about the security of contents of my bike, which I had locked near
their entrance. I didn't think losing the bicycle was likely, but my GPS
was loosely attached to the top of my handlebar bag. My paranoia won
     The last 18 miles were hilly, the temperature was rising, and I entered
Albuquerque around 1:30. As I was riding along a main thoroughfare an
SUV stopped ahead of me and the driver obviously wanted to talk. He
was a former cycle tourist (he currently considers himself a bit too old
for such endeavors) and, a few years earlier, had biked from Albuquerque
to Seattle over the same path I'd taken. He asked if I had a place to
stay, and was genuinely disappointed that I couldn't take advantage
of his offer of accomodations. I know exactly how he feels when he sees
a cycle tourist. I too have stopped and talked with them, offered water,
and on three occasions had guests for a few days. (I've also talked with
some without making such an offer. If they are just milling around I don't
issue an invitation; if they have a definite plan I'm usually glad to have
     I had no need of an Albuquerque map, for I'd brought my bicycle to
Albuquerque several times in the past, and am quite familiar with the
major streets and the best ways to get around. So it was only 2:30
when I arrived at Jean's home, was warmly welcomed, and looked
forward to a three-day rest.
     One of my pleasures in life is a late-afternoon drink, my favorite being
a Black Russian (half Kahlua half vodka over ice). I've enjoyed them so
much these past few years that occasionally I would wonder if I had some
sort of a problem with alcohol. But while on a bike ride I consume no
alcohol at all, since it tends to dehydrate me the next day, and on this
trip I haven't had a single drop. So as I started to sip my sweet beverage,
and the first relaxing results began to take effect, I realized that I had
gone 3 weeks, 4 days, 21 hours, and 14 minutes without a drink, so I
must not have a problem.

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