Thatcher RV Park[MAP]

Slept in a little this morning, not because of tiredness but because of the cold. My tent had iced up.

While I was packing my tent up, the lady from the trailer next to me came over to talk. Alissa offered to cook me eggs for breakfast. Sounds great, I thought. She mentioned that the eggs were from her pet quail and told me how it had crawled under the blankets in her bed two nights ago and suffocated. I declined the offer of the cooked eggs. She insisted on showing me the very dead quail as if in someway I might possibly be able to help it or something. I politely declined again.

We started chatting.

Alissa obviously thought the two of us were getting along so well that she contemplated that I may be the reincarnation of her long lost boyfriend. She asked me the year I was born, and got very excited at my reply. I insisted that I would have recognised her if that had been the case.

She told me about the people that were spying on her and penetrating her body with “some sort of electromagnetic beams”. Their plan was to steal her vital organs for use in transplants at hospitals. This is how her boyfriend had disappeared (I think by this stage I knew why her boyfriend had disappeared and it had nothing to do with body organs). She showed me her trailer which was basically a wooden garden shed on the back of a car trailer. There was no sign of a car and she mentioned that she’d been here for two months.

Inside the walls, ceiling and floor were lined with chicken wire to stop the “beams” from penetrating the trailer.

Over the weekend, she told me, the Casino had hosted a rodeo. Alissa had had very bad feelings that these body snatchers had tried to kidnap and kill a little girl, “right here in this very car park”. This led to her 9/11 conspiracy theory. Though, for her, it wasn’t a theory. She described it in a way that I knew she fully believed it. Apparently after the planes had crashed into the World Trade Centre, the New York Fire Department was meant to get to the twin towers and quickly recover as many bodies and body parts as they could. This would have supplied major hospitals with transplant materials for months “…but the buildings collapsed, so there went that plan.”

She asked what I did for a living apart from riding a bike and I told her of my background in electronics engineering. Her interest shot up once again. She had her own business selling solar powered chargers and air ionisers. I could be a partner in the business? She gave me her email address and I promised I’d check out her business website. She offered me a lift all the way to Texas but I told her I was enjoying the scenery so much that I didn’t want to skip any of it… Yeah right.

Normally I find crazy people quite interesting to chat to. It makes a change from the usual predictable barrage of questions you get from the so-called normal people. But Alissa was a bit too spooky for my liking.


BlackJack Campground, Apache National Forest[MAP]

Two long climbs today, the second of which took over two hours up a number of switchbacks with a nasty headwind all the way. An amazing view from the top, it was possible to see the road that I had been riding six hours earlier stretched out below me. At the summit I found a deserted campground amongst the pine trees; I felt very much at home considering the time I spent with them in California.

It was only four in the afternoon so I bummed about for a while, trying unsuccessfully to get a fire going and eating my dinner. When the sun sunk below the hill line, the temperature suddenly kamikazied to freezing point. Good enough reason to hit the sleeping bag.

My first enormous climb of 2005, Highway 78 near the Arizona/New Mexico border (Day 178)

My first enormous climb of 2005, Highway 78 near the Arizona/New Mexico border (Day 178)


Silver City KOA[MAP]

I was woken last night in the middle of the night by a wild dog growling outside my tent. I clapped my hands loudly, shooing and growling back at it, and it seemed to disappear. By morning, I was left wondering again if it was all a dream.

In the morning I woke up cold and all my drinking water had frozen solid. It made cooking my breakfast a challenge. The day started with a lovely, but freezing, downhill and then it all went pear-shaped. Strong headwinds and rolling hills for the rest of the day. I stopped often, for any excuse, even just to take a drink.

By the end of the afternoon I was depressed and frustrated at my lack of miles. I still had 10 miles to go to Silver City and was almost about to cross the Continental Divide for the tenth (?) time on this trip. I was really upset and even took to cursing loudly at the wind. On another of my for-no-good-reason rest breaks an old pickup pulled up in front of me.

It was an old guy, and he asked me if I wanted a lift into town. I gladly said yes and chucked my bike into the back (chucking the bike into the back of a pickup is no easier now than it was with the guitar; just a little less worrisome). Harry was a retired automotive car shop teacher (28 years) and said he’d seen me the first time when I rode through his home town of Cliff earlier in the day. He’d done some cycle touring himself, he’d actually gone into a business venture with his son-in-law doing just that. He gave me a tour through the historic Silver City town and then drove me five miles out the other side of town, up some ferocious hills, to the KOA campground. The kindness of strangers once again.

I got a quiet campsite in what was once a large field. It was another very cold night, and for the first time ever, I ate my dinner from inside my tent, wrapped up inside my sleeping bag.


Pancho Villa State Park (South of Columbia)[MAP]

Another terribly boring day. At four in the afternoon, with at least two hours of riding still to go to get to my planned campground, it started raining. And raining. And it got harder. It was depressing. And sure enough, within five minutes another pickup stops beside me and a young chap offers me a lift. I ask him where he’s heading and try to explain where I’m heading but he just says yeah, I’ll take you wherever. He asks me if I mind visiting some of his crops on the way. Travis is about thirty five and manages a farming cooperative. When he was younger, he spent two years as a missionary in Santiago, Chile and did a bunch of other travel, but is now settled with his wife and farm. Since I grew up on a wheat and sheep farm in Western Australia, I was really interested in seeing his farm. The equipment was unusual (onion seeders and chili pickers) and they even had an irrigation system. All sorts of crops; wheat, watermelons, corn, chili, onions. He spoke fluent Spanish and on the way to his place he stopped to help out a Mexican by the side of the road. The man was an illegal worker who’d just lost a lift with his brother.

Travis told me it was illegal to employ illegal immigrants and even to assist them, though he was kind enough to let the man use his mobile phone and even gave him ten dollars to get home.

It was easy to like Travis. He wanted me to stay at one of his worker’s houses for the night but I declined his generosity with some stupid excuse. Then he wanted to buy me dinner but I had to decline again. And then he wanted me to ring him if I got cold during the night. He even offered me money! I was starting to wonder if he would have even offered me his wife? He was a top bloke, very generous and very worldly and intelligent. He was totally aware that Australia was in the coalition of the willing in the invasion of Iraq, something of a first for me coming from a local. After an hour or more of seeing his farm he eventually dropped me off at the state park about three miles from the Mexican border.



Best Western Hotel, El Paso[MAP]

Last night I camped in the group eating area of the park, a large covered shed with open walls and a concrete floor. I was eating dinner and halfway through a bottle of red wine, and all of a sudden there’s a “Hey Leon!”. I turn around, and there’s Travis with a wide grin saying he’d come back just to make sure I was ok.

He even had some gifts for me. The first was a John Deere blanket; a small, fleecy blanket with a print of an old tractor on it. Oh cool, I said, and I continued to tell him how I used to get the small scale toy tractors each time Dad bought a new John Deere. In my half-sober state, I went on and on telling him about these tractors. He interrupts me, says “Yeah”, looking at me dead seriously, “I have a room full of those tractors, I’ve been collecting them all my life.” In my state, I just gave him an amazed/stunned look that probably just came across looking very stupid.

I think he knew that I was tipsy and I felt a bit paranoid about saying too much. He showed me the second gift, a large zip-lock bag of very flat, homemade chocolate chip cookies.

“My wife thought you might need some dessert.”

I wasn’t about to tell him that I couldn’t eat them because I was a Coeliac, I just grinned stupidly again and thanked him profusely. Without hesitation, he pulls out his third gift, a black, soft covered copy of the “Book of Mormons”.

“I’ve written a note in the front”, and he quickly flicks past the front pages, “and I’ve marked my two favourite parts.”

He goes on to explain each, the first being about Jesus visiting the Americas after his resurrection and the second about a promise the book makes about being true. In between explaining, he tells me that he’s not trying to preach to me. “Oh no, no, no” I reply earnestly, it should be entertaining reading in my present state of mind.

Travis eventually leaves, only after offering me a lift all the way to El Paso and asking if it’s ok if he comes to visit tomorrow. I’d already told him that I would have a rest day if it was another day of bad weather.

When I woke this morning, it had rained, stopped and started raining again. While eating breakfast it stopped raining. By the time I’d finished breakfast it had started again. I took a hot shower and by the time I got out it had stopped again. So I rode over to the Columbus gas station and gave Travis a call and luckily got his voicemail. For some reason I was very embarrassed about being drunk when he had visited last night, I know Mormons often shun alcohol and I felt a little like I had insulted him after all the generosity and kindness he had showed to me.

I left a thank you message and then got back on the bike to head East.

Ahead of me lay fifty-nine miles of borderland highway patrolled by speeding border control SUVs. Above me was a drab sky that began raining again several minutes after I started and still hadn’t stopped when I hit the sack in El Paso.

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining, is to let it rain.”

– Longfellow

My raincoat, a cheap waterproof one that has been with me for years, only stayed dry for a few minutes. Then my arm warmers got wet and cold. A bit later, I had my rain hood on, sunglasses off and coat zipped all the way up to my neck because I’m freezing my tits, arse and face off. Pretty soon, even my snowboarding gloves that I’d bought back from Australia, were soaked through. They were thick enough, at least, to be windproof and to keep my hands relatively warm and cramp-free.

The rain continued for the next five hours. When I stopped at the end of the road, on the turnoff to the city, a policeman in an unmarked vehicle drove over and commiserated with me,

“You soaked all the way through?”

I nodded.

“Damn, you make me look soft, I was trying to stay in the office all day to avoid the rain.”

He gave me directions to downtown El Paso and I headed off. I promised myself to stay in the first good hotel I came to, no matter what the cost. And here I am; after a twenty minute hot bath to re-warm the bones, watching bad Hollywood action movies. And strangely enough, really enjoying it.

The last two weeks have been absolutely miserable.

Screw this.

It’s time to catch a bus.

Warm lazy days, here I come.

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