To Roswell, NM
This post consists of excerpts from the transcript of a taped journal entry, so it’s in that tedious rambling style of all the tapes, and uneconomic with words.
Okay, I’m in Roswell. It’s after 8 O’Clock in the morning. Which means I’m going to be late and this is kind of worrying.
This is October 25th. I have to pack up, get some breakfast, and go.
Ruidoso is 70 miles away. It’s also about 3,000 feet up, and there’s a wind at the moment from the south, which is due to be from the southwest, and it’s going to pick up to 35 mph in the afternoon.
So I should have made the effort to go earlier. I believe there’s a shoulder most of the way, which is good enough, but there’s no town for 40 miles, and even when there is I don’t know what’s going to be there.
Yesterday was the what? The easiest day of the entire trip I suppose. Previous to that the easiest day had been from Omaha, Nebraska to Lincoln, Nebraska.
Because I just went north.
The distance from Artesia to Roswell on the main highway is 39 miles. On the other one it’s about 43, 44. I actually did 55 because, well I cycled around a couple of towns - which is straightforward enough - but I’d gone about 5 miles and I realised I’d left in the room my overshoes. So luckily I’d only gone 5 miles and it was an easy day.
There was also a soft south west breeze on my back.
I had breakfast in Artesia in a place called the Chaos Cafe. A big skillet of Mexican stuff with eggs and all the works. Expensive really, but it could’ve been more.
It was full of men on their own in cowboy hats. It was in one of those buildings - the rectangular corrugated iron buildings, which are pretty common particularly on the outskirts of towns.
[The rest of this day is continued below the fold]
So then I cycled out of town. The road roughly goes parallel with the Pecos River. There’s this strip of land; it’s actually quite fertile though if I look to my right, back east the way I came - I can see back towards the Caprock. It’s barren. Reds and browns, and sand.
I couldn’t see much to the west but I could see this mountain out there the whole time - the Capitan. The other one I could see yesterday, further in the distance, that’s supposed to be where I’m going today.
I’ve got real doubts about this. 70 miles. And I’m going uphill. With snow coming in tonight. If I can get there and snow doesn’t come down then it’s just 40, 45 miles downhill. And I can get off the mountain. Yes I’m very concerned. So I should be rushing. But that’s not what I do, and if I stayed here I could get snowed in anyway - from snow going up the mountain and me unable to get past it. So I have to try it today.
So I turn off the main highway which is US 285 on to what was the old Roswell highway from Artesia. It’s Highway 2. Down to Lake Arthur, which is just off the road, and I had a look in the town. And I saw a sign indicating there was an Historical Marker there but I couldn’t find it so I still haven’t seen an Historical Marker in New Mexico.
I was parallell as well with a rail track, and I got a few hoots and a wave from a Santa Fe train going past.
The next town was Hagerman. And I decided to eat. I’d done pretty much 25 miles and I reckoned that it was 25 miles to Roswell. So I ate a little cafe and I had - oh it was gorgeous - it was a chicken taco, a flour tortilla rather than one of the corn ones. I don’t know what they cooked the chicken in but it was the nicest taco I’ve had yet.
There was nothing to see in the town. When I say town, these are tiny places. The whole road is littered with farms anyway. You’re never that far from somewhere. There was an old service station, which had long closed down, with a couple of great big cacti outside.
Because there was a lot of buildings I didn’t notice the next town, Greenfield. There was a strip of land on either side of the road. There was a lot of cotton - quite a bit of it taken in already, and you’d get those large big bricks of hard-packed cotton just sitting there, with a tarpaulin on top of them, waiting to get collected.
There was also a couple of fields of chilies, red chilies. And lots of fields of green, and I don’t know what it was. It’s really small, and green. Very, very green. It’s the greenest I’ve seen land on any sustained basis since the first time I entered Oklahoma. Or maybe Arkansas.
At a fork after Dexter I took the smaller road. Sometimes you can make mistakes like that - the smaller road actually was probably the worse one because it had a lot of trucks by-passing the town, and no shoulder. And it was a bad surface. So I only went along it for 3 miles and then I found a road which would take me left and over the main highway and I would join South Main Street.
Main Street Roswell runs from the crossroads in the center of town down to the airport at the south. Small jets were landing as I was coming in there.
I went into a great big cyclery. Tom has done a bit of cycling. Next year to celebrate his 50th he’s going to cycle coast to coast, west to east, doing an average of 110 miles a day, and do it in a month. And he’s got it worked down that it’s going to be 3,472 miles. And he’s going to do it with his 10 year old grandson, who is mentally deficient (his words). He says that when he cycles, he cycles fast.
He did tell me about some roads and about some deserts, and I got my tyres.
There’s always a chance I won’t make it tonight. What’ll I do? Turn around and come back to Roswell? I could.
I was thinking quite early on yesterday that New Mexico has got very few insects. Sure it’s still got some grasshoppers, and it’s got some of the really fat disgusting ones which you always hope don’t jump - and they haven’t yet; they just stay there, no matter how close you go. So they’re sensible.
But apart from that I was thinking they haven’t got much. Oh, there was also those beetles, the great big ones which are about an inch to an inch and a half long, quite fat, and they’ve got a shiny maroon back. And they’re just running around in front of you.
So apart from those I was thinking, well there’s not much else. Well there’s nothing flying around. And no sooner had the thought entered my head than every size and colour of insect started attaching itself to my body.
I’d orange and black striped ones, and yellow and black stripeys, green insects, and black insects, and red insects, all just stuck to my arms and legs. And I’m brushing them off. I don’t know if they bit but they were cracking off the helmet and going into my eyes and mouth a lot.
When they go into your mouth you have to spit them out, obviously, but in spitting them out you have to take them in a bit further to get some saliva to spit them out. It’s always a bit risky because you’re in danger of swallowing them at that point.
The ones in the eyes are pretty bad. I’d a few of them. That said I could’ve just put my glasses on. But I’ve only worn them once since the Carolinas - on that horrible dusty day leaving Lubbock.
Last night the restaurant was a little bit uncomfortable because it was very kind of plush. Like there was a white carpet or cream. There was nobody there apart from these 2 women of which one was a bit lu-lah. You couldn’t help but listen because there was nothing else, even the staff wouldn’t hang around the room.
So these 2 women were talking and I was trying to write to a friend back in Dublin. Now I came in on the conversation when she was on her 2nd husband and couldn’t understand why he left. He just left her and gave no explanation, even though she idolised him. And by the end of the night I was thinking,
-Look, I’ll give you an explanation!
Yesterday morning before I left I watched live from L.A. a traffic report. Because there was a sniper in a house of which the roads were closed around it, some big roads. He was shooting all night. What I watched live was when they took him, I think killed him actually, the SWAT team outside. There was a lot of smoke and then they drag a body out. And then the traffic was free to go again.
I’m very concerned. I’ve just had 2 easy days on the bike and now I’m going to get 4 hard ones. Today is climbing, it’s distance, and it’s wind and potential wet. Tomorrow is thunderstorms and snow. Sunday is snow and storms again. Monday, there’s more wind and more rain. On Tuesday, it’s gone.
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