New Mexico: Changing Landscapes
It’s morning time and before setting off I’m documenting the previous day, my first full day in New Mexico.
Excerpted from my handwritten journal:
October 24th, 7:30am
Today is the anniversary in the Hebraic calendar of Yitshak Rabin’s assassination. The O.J. Simpson Civil Trial has got going and the coverage already is massive.
Far more interesting in Television Land was the Yankees comeback last night in Atlanta in game 4 of the World Series. From 6 - 0 down they won in extra innings 8 - 6 tying the series 2 - 2.
Yesterday’s 67 miles was easier than the 37 of the day before. The wind. Take it away and the day does indeed become idyllic.
West for 12 miles and south-west for 14. It was flat. Very. To the north is the Llano Estacado and then I went across the Caprock. There were some cattle but mostly it was oil fields. There was a hard strong yellow soil from which clumps of pale yellow grass and cacti grew.
The cacti had limbs that grew almost at right angles giving each cactus bush a maze like appearance. They were only a few feet high with a blooming yellow flower. Thousands of them. In my two foot shoulder I stopped a few times to photograph them but it wouldn’t work so I didn’t. So far New Mexico, like Kansas and Texas, is too big for a camera - even in Panorama.
I’m currently watching live the trial of a talk show guest accused of killing another talk show (The Jenny Jones Show) guest 3 days after taping the show. In the show in question the victim revealed himself as the secret gay admirer of the accused. Meanwhile over on “Sally” a woman talks over the caption “I killed my husband and hid his body”.
Approaching Maljamar I dropped down dramatically. This was the Mescalero Ridge. From the top I was looking down on a grassy desert with nothing visible for 30 miles. Even Maljamar was just a short stretch of road with a few buildings and space to park trucks.
There was a cafe where I had a burger and fries. These chips were home-made - hand cut just like Mam’s chips. There was nothing to see so after an hour surrounded by truckers in baseball caps who all knew each other, it was time to move on.
On this flat level the vegetation was different. A sandier soil than above the Ridge, with no Cacti whatsoever. I was now regretting not taking the photo for documentation purposes. There was bushes and grass, and from ground eye level it looked less barren than from the top. Looking back I could still see the Mescalero Ridge for miles from North to South.
[The rest of this day is continued below the fold]
In the middle of these flat lands was a very slightly raised bit and this was the Loco Hills after which the town is named. The last building along the stretch of road was a store. I bought a huge coke from a fountain machine. I wasn’t thirsty but seeing a land so barren told me I should drink even though I still had water on the bike and I was only 25 miles from my destination and going a comfortable 12mph.
The next 13 miles were more of the same with the permanent smell of petrol from the oil fields.
Then there was road construction and I was held up with the rest of the traffic until I was let go ahead alone. And then the road dropped again, and there was this fabulous view.
At long last, after thousands of miles on flat sweeps of land where I could see forever, now there were mountains. Mountains. They formed the horizon to the west maybe 50 miles away with a couple of very large mountains standing out much nearer. Behind me to the east the Ridge was still clearly visible and to my right were gentle slopes of land almost lime green in colour with dark olive green bushes peppered throughout, capped by brown and red soft ridges. But straight ahead was the view.
At the bottom it was so much more fertile. This was where the Pecos River runs. Of course the view was much too big for a photograph again and the mountains were too distant, too feint, too blue. Despite that I couldn’t take my eyes off them. It was downhill for about 10 miles. A gentle slope in a new wide shoulder where I just looked around in every direction. Idyllic.
Near the town after I crossed the river there was crops. Green luscious fields, and cotton again although it seemed all dried up. The main landmark of the town from a distance is an oil refinery. It seems I’m finished with grain elevators. There had been one in Lovington but it was metal and looked unused.
This town is really pretty too and also has quite a few shops. I went through a walkway with murals on both sides detailing the history of the town. A great idea but the execution of the murals was terrible.
Like in Lovington I cycled around the town before checking into my motel. Yes it’s Indian run again.
I’d been looking forward to ringing my old Connecticut hosts for miles across the semi-desert and did so immediately after calling the safe signal home. Used up the rest of my phone card and it was good to hear of life in back in Fairfield.
They also gave me contacts for Phoenix and for San Diego. I filled them in on life on the bike since Kansas City but it doesn’t translate into stories so well, as the land is flat and the people are few. That said I think they correctly understood that I’m still enjoying it.
For dinner I went out to the family run Mexican next door having Soapipilla which was great with a huge basket of tortilla chips.
The forecast for today is good and indeed out the window it looks great.
Today only a short trip is planned. Maybe 45 miles north to Roswell but main concern is after today. A big storm in the North West of the country is hurtling this direction bringing rain, thunderstorms, snow and winds. It’s meant to dominate the weather in the state for Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and even tomorrow there is a wind advisory warning issued for with winds of 35mph from the south-west expected. I want to go west tomorrow so that’s a problem.
Right now I need a phone card and much more importantly I need new tyres. The walls of the back tyre are almost worn through. It won’t last much longer. There is a bike shop in town so I’m hopeful. If not then Roswell is bigger so I should get sorted there. I’m a little bit annoyed with myself for not replacing them in Lubbock. That was unnecessarily reckless.
Perhaps if I hole up and wait for the storm to pass at the weekend I’ll phone some friends in Dublin then. Tomorrow and Saturday I’m due to be in mountains but that may not be wise with snow on the way.
I think I’ll go and look for a breakfast burrito. Or maybe a corn dog. Yes I’m hungry and it’s time to put the winter pants on and cycle in the cool dry air of New Mexico. So far I adore this state, its landscapes, its towns, and its people. Will it continue?
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