Thursday, April 26, 2012

Random encounters

Day 12. Greetings from the Days Inn in Grants, NM! Veronica and I are just back from an excursion to WalMart. My goal was to supplement the motel's continental breakfast tomorrow morning with Greek yogurt. Her goal was to get some BandAids and tape to protect some split skin on her left thumb. Not too serious, but it keeps getting bumped by the shift lever.

WalMart is about a quarter of a mile away. Cut through the back of the Holiday Inn Express and the Taco Bell drive-thru, and you're basically there. Still it was the most difficult trip of the day.

The wind that started to kick up 20 miles outside of town is now at full bore.  It's picking up the sand in the parking lots and along the railroad tracks and blowing it everywhere. On the way to WalMart we have to lean against it, and on the return trip it is gusting so hard we are basically walking blind. Through the WalMart parking lot. It scours bare legs (ow) and sets grit between our teeth. Looking toward the interstate, the air is just a dark fog of dirt and sand.

Veronica approaches a car that's clearly just pulling out. I can't hear the conversation but the young woman starts making room for us in her car. We get in and she gives us a lift back to the Days Inn, 2 blocks away. The interior smells like cigarette smoke, but I throw her a fiver saying gas is expensive. Someone should do something randomly kind for her at some point.

It's been a weird day. The ride from Gallup was only 64.5 miles but we pushed off early, at 7:30am. That meant before dawn in Gallup we were walking to a place called Earl's for breakfast. Maybe the early start was to avoid the wind... Possible thunderstorms were also a subject of much discussion, but they did not materialize. The high temp today was ~83 degrees, barely warm enough for convection.

The route included 3 rest stops with the van on the way to Grants. Three. Almost more stopping than riding. For context, on the last day of the pre-ride I stopped once, in Santa Barbara for lunch. Now here we are, munching Oreos shaped like footballs and Hostess Donettes every 15 miles or so.
We stop when we see the cone.
Jim, providing junk food and deadpan humor in remote places.
Today we rode only ~8 miles on the interstate. But it had the worst shoulder we've seen so far on the trip. Asphalt dust. Pieces of radial tires flung everywhere. Rumble strip. A lip where the pavement drops suddenly. Glass. You name it... Choose between riding the white line, inches from passing semis, or picking through the debris field. Everyone was relieved to make it to a smooth frontage road, where we spent the rest of the ride. The name of the exit? "Continental Divide".

Yes, THE Continental Divide. From here on the rivers all flow to the east. Of course, Jim was there with the van (and snacks).

Down the road a bit we caught up with a group of 3 bicycle tourists. They carry everything on their bikes, including tent, sleeping bags, stove, and so on. One said they camp wherever, even by the side of the road sometimes. After starting from San Diego they're trying to skirt snow and tornadoes by staying south. It's a roadside party for a couple of minutes.

Team Awesome from Eugene (just like Vic, right)
They call themselves Team Awesome. In Williams a week ago, they had to spend 3 days because of snow. None of us is sure what day it is! Then Thea and Vic start down the road again and I scramble to catch them.

That's when we started to notice the wind. Talking to Team Awesome also gave an opportunity to look at the clouds behind us. It didn't look so good for Team Vic Thea Elaine. We headed for clearer skies but the wind was not so easily dealt with. It had been turned on like a switch and with each passing minute seemed to grow stronger. Like 2 days ago it came from whatever direction, depending on whim. Mostly a crosswind, about 20 mph. We did our best to draft into Grants.

The people seem nice here but the economy must be severely challenged. All the newer buildings are out of town, next to the interstate. Downtown the main drag is full of empty lots, shuttered motels and restaurants, and commercial For Sale signs. Our lunch restaurant had a petition at the register for local residents to sign. It stated that no one objected to the new 7-day-a-week schedule for the cement plant. The noise would be no problem. We had tried to go to the restaurant on the route sheet but it had closed. We saw another cafe sign and rode over to investigate. There was no building on the sandy lot. It had been leveled and the sign was propping up a For Sale sign.

Welcome to Route 66.

No comments:

Post a Comment