Saturday, November 15, 2008

Leaving the Guadalupe Mountains

I'm back to the blog. I will have a lot for you to read over the next two day. Enjoy!!! I have.

So it was a sad moment to leave John, Evelyn and Kristen in Carlsbad. John and I got up early and had a "man to man" breakfast at a place called Happy's and then he drove me to the Guadalupe Park Museum near El Capitan (I'll have some pictures in the upcoming Picture Extravaganza). We watch a 12 minute educational video about the surrounding area an then said our goodbyes. John has got to be one of the nicest men I have ever met, and I could just tell that he was a little uncomfortable with something about the situation. So I asked him, "Is is weird that you are dropping me off to ride my bicycle west through the desert while you drive your car the opposite direction back home?" He just looked at me with a little chuckle and commented, "Yes... yes it is."
Beginning at over 5600 feet above sea level, the Guadalupe's westerly downgrade was a quick 2000 foot drop in under 10 miles. This was the 1st major temperature change for me riding. It was cold. I put on the gloves and wool hat and another layer and speed down the mountains as fast as I could. The wind chill caused my nose to freeze numb, but of course, that didn't stop me... I was CRUISING!!

It turns out this ride marked the beginning of a long stretch of cold days and nights. I have the gear to keep warm but no more short sleeve and shirtless riding to soak up the hot sun.

Near the top of the downgrade before my speeding ride down the mountain. I stopped here to put on the extra gear to keep warm.

Near the bottom of the moutains were these expansive salt flats near a town appropriately called Salt Flat. I assume these are much like the salt flats used to break the land speed records in Utah. I couldn't ride my bicycle on the salt but I did walk out about a quarter mile to take in the site. I was bright like the sun on snow and blinded me as I gazed over the landscape. I figured I would leave my mark so I pee'd my name in the salt... My penmanship was horrible.

Signs like this foretold my new enemy. I have spent much of my ride facing the wind, which slows me down. But now i am in the face of 20-30 mile winds and gusts that make riding difficult. Even frustrating. Fortunately, I never faced any dust storms (yet), but I can imagine there impact. The signs continued for about 100 miles and we often followed by another sign reading "Zero Visibility Possible".

I spent 85 miles on this road toward El Paso. There were two towns on the map, but they no longer existed. There were some buildings and crossroads but they were abandoned and empty. So this ride was a long and lonely, mostly uphill (after the 2000 foot drop, the grade was a slow incline toward El Paso back up to about 5100 feet) and into a mighty headwind.

So "Chester" the horse became my new friend. He was out in a huge fenced field, probably 100's of acres. When I pedalled by he was a few hundred yards away and galloped toward me. I was due a break so I met him at the corner of the barb fenced field and we had a little talk about how I was out of water and how I was planning on getting throught the rest of the day. I was still about 50 miles from El Paso.

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