Today is that day. Every long bike tour has one. The first day out that I really realize just how deep in I am. Shit is broken, lost, or left behind. The day when multiple things go sideways and all I can do is manifest the miles. There will be no time traveling. No movie references. Just miles.
Temperatures reach below freezing overnight. Plus a desert wind chill. Up all night fighting the wind as it whips through our baseball-dugout-campsite, we drag our asses out into the frigid morning at the crack of dawn. I rip my tent bag while stuffing it back in. Our cable and lock jumped ship yesterday somewhere on 10. Whoever cleaned up our room in Tucson came up on my butt butter (which is not to be confused with anal lube). My face and nose are shedding leathery skin like an iguana. The sun has only been up an hour and the day has already kicked me so hard in the face that for the first time in 20 years I eat at McDonalds. Number 3. Sausage egg and biscuit. Yes the meal. (If you’re keeping score at home, I’m not counting the one time at a New Zealand McDonald’s. If you’ve been to New Zealand, you know why. If you haven’t been to New Zealand, go to New Zealand or zip it).
Nothing but Interstate 10 for the entire day. It’s worse than the day before. More debris. More bumps. More uphills. More headwinds. I stop counting nails that I see, because it’s in the hundreds. Less traffic, though. But they’re still going 87 mph and I’m now only going 7 mph. A few miles in and Damon is well ahead. I’m blasting music as loud as I can to drown out the sound (and thought) of imminent death by splatterdom just 5 feet away from me. Turning back to look when I come to an exit ramp produces a life-flashing-before-my-eyes moment every hour or so. The way this day has started, I’ll be surprised if one of us doesn’t get a flat or something beyond.
Somewhere around mile 25, my right pedal cage snaps off. Fuck. Not today. Not any day really. But not on top of all this. My first solution fails, and the pedaling is fucked because my right foot keeps sliding off the pedal. About mile 55 an unexpected real rest stop appears. When I say “real”, I don’t mean that there’s a Starbucks and a Burger King. Because there isn’t. There’s parking spots, bathrooms and warm water out of the sink to refill the bottles. That’s the rest stop. I eat some trail mix and engineer a proper solution to my pedal problem.
A few minutes later and it’s the same dude with the three dogs at the last rest stop – walking into the bathroom. He recognizes me and we chat a bit more. Now he tells me has six dogs. Australian Herding dogs or something. He travels around and sells them; he is American, he loves American people but not American politics – can’t stand Trump or Biden, so he’s doing this to avoid the noise. I normally would wade right into a conversation like that, but he busts out the 8 week puppy he’s calling Mister and it takes all my energy to not give him $50 and put this dirty little pup on the back of my bike for the next 2500 miles.
Needless to say, Mister brightens the dreariest of days. Thanks for that, little guy… whatever your name ends up being.
Next thing you know I’m in the Land of Enchantment and things are looking up. Enchant away por favor. New state; New Mexico state of mind. The Interstate of mind still sucks gorilla balls but my pedal solution holds up. Damon and I regroup and hammer out these last 20 miles together, music still blasting, we’re powering our way through New Mexico. We hit our exit ramp off Interstate 10 into Lordsburg; I breath a huge sigh of relief that we’ve survived the grueling adventure without dying or busting a wheel. Glad to be alive and looking forward to our climb to 8,228 foot Emery Pass, am I. For now though… proper rest.