After two days of relaxing and soaking in the tub we figured we should probably keep moving, we did have a country to cycle across after all! Packing up and retracing our steps through the bushes, past the “No Trespassing” sign, under the fence and along the dirt road we felt a collective relief that Scott had not turned out to be New Mexico’s answer to Jack Torrance and was in fact a really nice bloke who’d just wanted to help us out!
Stopping, again, at the Blue Moon Zach ran in to fill up our water bottles. When he still hadn’t emerged ten minutes later I went in to see what he was doing and found him just about to order a beer. Oh well we’ve already done a couple of miles today, we can have a break can’t we? Easily convinced I called in Bryce and we sat outside in the sunshine, all intentions of a long day slowly drowning at the bottom of our beer glasses. As it happened, it turned out to be a lucky move as Diarrhoea Dog had not yet reached it’s climactic finale and poor Cisco was still in trouble.
Before long two other bike tourers rocked up and joined us and our one beer ended up being nearer four or five… who can say!
By mid afternoon we decided that we really should try and go somewhere that day and so we said our farewells and headed back out to our bikes. Wobbling off our intentions were yet again short lived as within a few miles Cisco made another emergency exit from his front basket with his tail in the air. At least by this point he and Bryce had figured out a way to communicate his predicament and so he was able to relieve himself not in his bed or in Bryce’s sleeping bag but on the ground! Cutting our losses we decided to set up camp in the bushes by the side of the road and thus, after ducking the fence, my introduction to stealth camping was made… all because of Ciscos’ sh**ty tummy!!!! We had travelled a grand total of four and a half miles!
Aside from hearing some nearby coyotes (which may well have just been Cisco come to think of it) the night was peaceful and we rode off the next morning determined to make some distance at last.
We spent that night camping at a state park for 10 bucks feeling relieved that we had at least covered more than 4 miles! With Cisco still not quite right it had been a day of stopping and starting but if nothing else we were making progress again.
Since riding with the boys there had been many changes to my trip, nearly all good. Having the company of course was superb, the three of us got on so well and being together felt very natural. Help with the bike was also much appreciated, I think Zach would be able to put any tyre back onto a rim no matter how tight! As faster riders the increase in speed was also making me stronger and I could feel my fitness improving and of course having Bryce around to make me chuckle put me in a good mood regardless of the day’s events!
However, cheery though he may be, Bryce was not what you would call a “fast mover” in the morning. In fact, other than my little sister, I’ve never seen anyone faff around so much. With Zach and I packed and ready to go Bryce would still be doing god knows what with his things all over the place resulting in not only a later departure but also a stressed out Zach and often a ridiculous argument that only siblings could have! Something had to be done! Knowing we had a long day ahead that night a pact was made and the following morning Zach packed up and kept quiet. I was on “get Bryce moving” duty knowing that his response to me would likely be more positive (and productive) than to his brother! It worked and we were on the road by 9:00! Still not exactly an early start but much better than some days where we wouldn’t leave until 11:00!!
After all our efforts within a few miles we were bought firmly back down to earth with, you’ve guessed it, a flat! Knowing that I am usually left behind quite quickly I left the boys to fix it to get a bit of a head start. Passing on the directions to Zach I set off fully expecting to be caught up as soon as I hit a climb. Half an hour went by and still the boys hadn’t reached me, I was feeling chuffed with myself… perhaps I’m stronger than I thought?! Another hour and I was still alone… a long straight road in either direction and no little cyclist shapes dots on the horizon… I felt like something had gone wrong. Without a mobile I had no choice other than to keep going until I reached town and a phone box to see what had happened. Feeling a little nervous and knowing that something must be wrong I was relieved to arrive in Hillsboro and stop in at the post office to phone Bryce…
“Dude, what’s happened”?
“I went the wrong way” came the reply… Bugger.
It turned out that Zach had made the left hand turn towards Hillsboro as planned. Bryce however, with Zach already round the first corner, did not follow suit and instead continued on quite happily in the total opposite direction. In fact, not only did he simply continue on but in an attempt to catch up with Zach he rode hard, keeping his speed up and getting increasingly angry at his brother for going so far ahead!
After a while, realising that he was not being followed Zach went back to the junction, rode back along the road towards the state park and back to the junction, along the wrong direction and back to the junction all the while phoning Bryce who, not hearing the ring, didn’t pick up.
Starting to panic and increasingly convinced that Bryce had been involved in an accident Zach found a kindly person at the junction convenience store to drive him up the wrong road and try and find him. After 15 miles (that’s over an hour and a half of riding) they came across our little yellow friend pedalling as hard as he could in totally the wrong direction! Oh Bryce, you plonker!
We now had a predicament. The boys were less than 5 miles from the state park that we had stayed at the evening before and the afternoon was fast approaching. I settled down in the only cafe in Hillsboro that was open… actually, an amendment; I settled down in the only cafe in Hillsboro, and thankfully it was open and prepared myself for a long wait. When the boys arrived we accepted that we were not going to be able to make it to our original finish point so we set up camp in the local park. Tomorrow would be different we told ourselves… tomorrow we would have a big day!
Right, so, today would be the day! Today we were going to make it to Silver City! Silver City was not only over 50 miles away (a big day by our recent standards) but also on the other side of Emory Pass which clocking in at over 8000ft was the high point of the Southern Tier. We woke to cloudy weather which promptly laid to rest our hopes of good views but as in Texas the mist gave the mountains an atmospheric feel and the ride was beautiful.
Winding our way up the pass for a few hours you’ll have realised by now that it was about time that something didn’t go to plan! Guess what… oh yeah, you got it, Bryce got a flat! After a quick patch we pushed off and guess what, oh yeah, you got it, Bryce got a flat. He hadn’t moved a metre. Now out of tubes and the patches failing we had a problem, we were still 30 miles from Silver City and there were no bike shops until we arrived. There was nothing for it, Bryce would have to catch a ride. With little traffic on the road it was a bit of a wait but eventually we packed Bryce, Cisco and his bike into the back of a surprisingly small hatchback and Zach and I continued the slog uphill.
The road was steep as it wound it’s way up to the top of the pass and even though the view was pretty mediocre hitting the highest point was satisfying! This was the highest I had been in the US of A!
After the gruelling climb up it was finally time for the spin down the other side and oh was it a good one. Zach just ahead of me apexing the corners we flew down over 2000 feet. The only problem was the temperature which had dropped significantly. It was freezing and our high speeds insured the wind whipped away what little warmth collected around our bodies. Furthermore, if the wind wasn’t bad enough before we knew it it had started raining. Zach by this point had pulled ahead and so it was by myself that I sped through the rain gradually getting colder and colder.
After 10 miles or so I caught up with Zach and guess what, oh yeah you got it, he had a flat! He was also soaking wet and freezing cold. For some absurd reason both he and Bryce were cycling across the country without waterproof jackets so although I was dripping from the waist down Zach was totally soaked through and shivering. I was a bit worried and we decided getting to town quickly was our best option. In a vain attempt to keep warm and stop the wind we wrapped him up in the hammock tarp and got our thumbs out. As with Bryce’s hitch the road was quiet and so it took a while but eventually a kindly guy in a pick-up stopped and seeing our sorry state offered to take us the final 20 miles to Silver City despite the fact he wasn’t actually going that direction… what a hero! Relieved that I wasn’t going to be stuck on the side of the road with a hypothermic boy we jumped in and met up with Bryce at a motel in town.
A warm shower does wonders and after warming up we were ready for dinner. On our way out we bumped into another bike tourer, Josh, and his companion on the road Shoeless Joe with whom we decided to share the evening and a few beers. To clarify, Shoeless Joe is a border collie… and a lovely one at that! Josh has a trailer on the back of his bike in which his faithful friend rides although at 45 pounds he’s kicked out for the uphills… he has to run those which I think is fair enough!
Now I do encourage you to check out Josh’s baby… Operation Elf Box http://operationelfbox.com. A wonderful charity he set up from scratch that it is now gaining momentum and spreading it’s festive arms across the States. The concept is simple, bring Christmas to those families for whom present buying is an unaffordable luxury. Gifts are donated by the local community and are then offered to local families in need to insure that Santa makes the full rounds on Christmas eve. A charity to help the community made possible by the community. What a nice idea. His cross country ride is to aid in it’s promotion and he’s been on numerous radio stations and local television channels along the way getting the word out and trying to recruit new Elf Shoppe volunteers. I thought it was quite smashing and wish Josh all the best with taking the organisation forward. Oh and Shoeless Joe is gorgeous too!
After much deliberation the next morning we decided that we rather liked the look of Silver City and that we would like to stick around and check it out. Not being able to afford the motel for a second night we checked out and headed into town to pick up some bike spares and find a cheaper place to stay.
Whilst at the bike shop we luckily bumped into the friendly Richard who offered us a free place to stay with him and his friends at their Bicycle Haus. A house with an open door the owner Jamie welcomed us inside and showed as around his quirky, creative space. The loft is full of full sized papier mache puppets used for demonstrations, parades, and celebrations. It was a cool place indeed.
The only thing that was cooler than the loft was our send off. Equipped with cow bells and a shell horn we cycled off the next morning to a chorus of rings, dings, and dongs! The neighbours must have loved us!