Harry on his Bike

Days 28-30

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Day 28. Sunday, October 1
     We were all up by 4. Jean fixed a wonderful breakfast while I finished
the last packing. Our goodbys were leisurely, for the sun was taking its
own sweet time. Finally we began to see its effects, and since the tires
had held their air I was able to leave by 6:30.
     The last major climb of the entire trip would be crossing Tijeras Pass
east of Albuquerque. Central Avenue headed directly into the rising sun
for several miles, but early on a Sunday morning there was little traffic
and plenty of lanes for all east-bound vehicles. Interstate 40 is the main
route, but as Central merged with the Interstate I noticed an asphalt lane
to the side of the entry ramp. A woman doing some serious walking
paused and willingly answered my question. Yes, this lane continues
     Good news, since New Mexico (as of two years ago) instituted a
bikes-on-the-interstate policy: OK everywhere except in the big-city
areas. I followed the biking-jogging-walking lane for about a mile and it
led onto the wide shoulder of the frontage road. The grade was gentle,
the weather perfect, and the traffic essentially non-existant. About 20
miles later I reached the high point of 7000 feet.
     On the climb I stopped at roadcuts to examine some of the exposed
geology,  and passed a group of students from the University of New
Mexico on a geology field trip (they each had their geologist's hammer).
It reminded me of a Saturday almost exactly 50 years ago when I was a
geology major at UNM. I was taking Field Geology (a required course
that met every Saturday) and spent the day in the same area. But I
had just finished an all-night poker session, had no sleep at all, and
that day was the longest of my life. I realized that either poker or Field
Geology would have to go. So I dropped the course and changed my
major to mathematics. Priorities.
     But this time I'd had a good night's sleep. After topping the pass I
had a gentle downhill with a fair tailwind, and soon passed through the
town of Moriarty. The frontage road led directly onto the freeway, and I
was relieved to see no sign that excluded bicycles. The wind picked up,
and my average speed steadily increased. By 12:30 I was at Clines
Corners, 58 miles from Albuquerque, and it was decision time.
     I could continue on the interstate to Santa Rosa, another 56 miles.
Or, I could turn southeast and head for Vaughan, which was only
another 44 miles. The distances to Clovis (my destination for the next
day) were exactly the same. These two towns were the only ones likely
to have a motel. I picked up a couple of "Travelers' Discount Coupon"
books, went into the restaurant, and looked at them before deciding
what to order. The booklets had a few entries for Santa Rosa but none
for Vaughan. The tailwind split the angle between the two courses, so
I decided to push for Santa Rosa.
     I didn't see a thing on the menu that looked appealing, so I left the
restaurant, ate a granola bar and a banana, and rejoined the trucks.
As if to reward me for my correct decision, the wind shifted slightly and
became a perfect tailwind. At 22 miles an hour I was biking in dead
air. At this rate I'd be in Santa Rosa by 4.
     Foolishly, I began to play number games. I'm rolling along doing about
20 and pass a mile marker. Can I reach the next one in three minutes?
Here is a slight uphill---stand on the pedals to keep that speed above 20!
The next marker appears 8 seconds ahead of schedule. But there is
another hill, so push harder. Oops, now I'm 6 seconds behind. Make up
that time!
     After 45 minutes I realized that I was undoing all the rest I'd gotten
in the previous three days, so I forced myself to ignore the cyclecomputers.
I'd recovered somewhat as I crossed a river  whose name told me that
I was no longer in the wild country "west of the Pecos". I entered Santa
Rosa in a state of exhaustion and started looking for orange juice.
     The only "big" grocery store in town was about twice the size of your
average 7-11, the freezer was malfunctioning, and they had no orange
juice. I did buy a couple of gala apples (79 cents a pound) but when the
clerk told me I owed $1.29 I asked just how much those two apples
weighed. She said "Oh, that scale must not be working again", did
some mysterious adjusting, and modified the price to a more-reasonable
65 cents. My first experience with business in Santa Rosa.
     The American Inn had coupons in both booklets I'd gotten at Clines
Corners: one had a coupon that gave a rate of $26.95 and the other
gave a rate of $29.95. I wasn't so tired I couldn't pull out the best coupon,
and the clerk honored it without question. I checked into a good room,
but I just HAD to have some orange juice.
     The motel clerk said that there were a couple of convenience stores
on down the road. Actually, it was on UP the road, for there was a
considerable hill to climb. I struggled up this hill, went in, and found
the frozen juice case. All they had was frozen grape- and frozen apple-
concentrate. I biked to another convenience store and they had nothing,
so I returned for some grape juice. I took the (purple) container to the
clerk who tried to scan it. He never got a beep, so he went back to the
case and returned with a (yellow) container of apple concentrate. That
scanned OK, so he said "That will be $2.03." I demurred: "But you
scanned the apple juice, and I want grape juice." "But the grape juice
doesn't scan", he explained. "But," I continued, with a growing feeling
that I was dealing with someone whose IQ was lower than the temperature
in this air-conditioned place, "the grape juice only costs $1.29." He
sighed, rolled his eyes, and said "Then I can't sell it to you, because it
doesn't scan," and took the grape juice back to the freezer. Desperate,
dying of thirst, I gave it one last try: "But the price is marked on the
container." He now knew he was dealing with either a mental case or
someone hard of hearing, so tried one last time to explain it all to me:
     He was obviously relieved that I must have accepted his explanation
because I left with no further argument. I returned to my room after an
extra two-miles of wasted hill-climbing biking and had to drink ice water.
     During my search for orange juice I met three cyclists who had stopped
by the side of the road examining a coupon book. Only one of the three
showed any interest in talking, with the other two avoiding eye contact.
Perhaps they didn't speak English. They were looking for the American
Inn, and I directed them. They had started somewhere on the east coast
and were headed for Los Angeles. They were carrying very little gear, so
I suspect they had vehicle support, but they obviously were not interested
in talking.
     After showering, doing my chores, and taking a nap I was ready to eat.
Across the street was a good-looking restaurant. I entered, stopped at
the sign that said "Please wait to be seated" and followed instructions,
even though there were plenty of unoccupied tables and booths. Several
people who obviously worked there walked by me and never said a word.
After five minutes I left. (I don't think I looked that bad.)
     Next I went to a Pizza Hut. I entered just behind a couple, who were
immediately approached by a waitress. "Two?" she asked. They said
yes, and were immediately shown to a table. The waitress then went
about her business, bringing them menus, water, and serving a few other
customers, while I stood next to the sign that said I was to wait to be
seated. After three minutes I turned and stepped towards the door. "We'll
be with you in just a minute" said a man (the manager?) who was talking
on the phone. I turned and waited. The waitress went about her business,
never giving me a glance, and even had a few words with the man on the
phone. After three more minutes I left.
       Did I forget to put on my pants? Should I return to the room and look
at myself in the mirror? Is my leprosy that obvious?
     There was one more restaurant within reasonable walking distance, so
I decided to give it one last try before hauling out the crackers. I entered,
there was a sign that said "Seat Yourself", so I did. A friendly girl brought
me water and a menu and, to my relief, gave no sign that she was about
to barf. I had a big salad, a tasty chicken fried steak, and I took the huge
baked potato back to the room. The breakfast problem was solved.

Day 29.   Monday, October 2
     The coupon for the American Inn said that a "continental breakfast"
was included, so I went over to the office while it was still dark. The
coffee was fresh, they had a selection of donuts, and even orange juice (!).
I put my baked potato in their microwave and had a very satisfying
     Also eating breakfast were a couple of men from Toledo who were
on their way to Las Vegas with their wives (who were still sleeping). They
said they sure hoped the wind died down today because yesterday their
gas milage was terrible. (Hey, better you buy more gas than me get a
hernia.) I sympathised aloud while secretly hoping they'd have to take
out a loan---I like tailwinds.
     There were six bicycles locked to posts outside a couple of the rooms,
but the European cyclists had not made an appearance by the time I left
at dawn. Have fun fighting that wind, guys!
     Although not as strong as the day before, the wind definitely was
favorable. I headed south through attractive but desolate country 
towards Fort Sumner, whose main claim to fame is a museum devoted
to Billy the Kid. In town I stopped for several glasses of iced tea and a
small breakfast burrito. The highway turned east and my tailwind becamea
crosswind, but the biking was still pleasant.
     It was a flat ride on to Clovis. The highway paralleled a very active
railroad, and at least 10 trains passed me in each direction. I had about
a 90% success rate in blowing train whistles. One time the whistle
blew just before I waved, and I imagined the conversation that had taken
place in the engineer's cab:
          "Hey, there's another of those crazy guys on a bike."
           "Yeah. Let's see if we can get him to wave."
           "OK." [They blow whistle, I wave, and they break into
                hilarious laughter, slapping their thighs and high-fiving.]
      Along that desolate stretch, any group of two or more buildings
merits a town name---Taiban had nothing but a sorry-looking trading
     I was glad to reach Clovis after another century day. To my relief,
the scanner in a convenience store worked just fine, and I then checked
into a good room, only a couple of hundred feet from a K-Bob's, a
restaurant in a chain that I've found reliably good.
     After the usual move-in activities I had a wonderful feast at K-Bob's
endless salad bar. The lady who kept the dishes full urged me to finish
off the strawberry shortcake (there were only about three servings left) so
she could "start cleaning up". She asked me so nicely that I felt it would
be discourteous to refuse.

Day 30. Tuesday, October 3
     I had a fitful sleep, because I was behind on my reports and this
knowledge penetrated my dreams. While on the road I'm usually too
tired to do much in the evening, preferring to go to sleep around 8:30,
and then work on the reports when I wake up around 3:30. I'd checked
my e-mail and sent responses before retiring, but I knew that I'd better
not get too far behind on the reports.
     I awoke and looked at my watch: 5:50. Darn! Too late to do any
writing, since it would be dawn in an hour and I like to start early. Also,
I just didn't feel as rested as I should be after a nine-hour sleep. But I
got up, threw on my still-wet biking clothes, and went over to a small
restaurant next door that I was relieved to find open. I went in, and
the waitress asked if I wanted coffee. No, just breakfast, and I'd have
their special: two eggs and a large pancake.
     As I was waiting for my order to be filled I glanced around the empty
restaurant and my eyes happened to pause on the clock on their wall.
Hmm. They should get that fixed---it says 2:45. I checked it against
my watch: 6:10. Then the truth soaked in: I had used the stopwatch
function to time how long I was connected to AOL the previous evening,
had not exited the stopwatch mode, and the stopwatch now read 6:10.
     Well, I wasn't upset, because I'd just been given a gift of about three
hours. So I finished my early breakfast, returned to the room, and
worked on my reports until it was time to leave.
    The daytime temperatures had been rising for the past couple of days.
Although cool in the early morning, by mid-afternoon it was stifling. The
vegetation on the parched terrain was mostly scrub mesquite, with
occasional fields of sorgham or stunted cotton. 
     When I was still a dozen miles from Lubbock I decided to play some
more numbers games and turned on my GPS. I found that the great-
circle distance to Miami was 1414 miles, while the great-circle distance
from the Seattle-Tacoma terminal was 1422 miles. So my trip is
(approximately) half done.
     I had been drinking lots of water, but the constant breathing through
my mouth dried my throat to the point where I difficulty swallowing. Taking
a swig of water would relieve it for only a few seconds, so I was very glad
to finally enter Lubbock. I passed through the center of town, checked
and rejected ("I might be back") a motel that wanted $35 for a very poor
room, didn't check a motel that advertised an indoor pool and free shuttle,
got some orange juice at a supermarket, and headed for the outskirts of
town. To my great relief I came to another motel that had a very good
room at a reasonable $32.
     Associated with the motel was a small restaurant that had a sign
saying they needed a cook that could "speak English and Spanish".
In the meantime the owner (an elderly Hispanic fellow) was the cook.
For supper I had large amounts of iced tea to accompany a spaghetti
dinner. The spaghetti was overcooked, but the meatballs were superb.
All in all, a satisfactory conclusion to another century day.

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