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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Day 35 (31 riding): Total overall distance: 2266.75mi Total distance today: 63.32mi Total time: 5.35.29 Avg speed: 11.3mph Top speed: 25.5mph

Random thoughts of the day:
-I love waking up to these views...they would be even better if it was warmer than 35 degrees outside
-That left turn is gonna be rough (go from a head/cross wind to dead headwind
-I wouldn't enjoy driving into 28mph winds with 42mph gusts...but here i am, on a bicycle
-Oh my wind
-This is absolutely incredible...pedaling to go 7mph downhill
-Yay!!!!! Time to climb 1000 feet in 11 miles into a severe wind advisory
-If anyone wanted to see a re-run of the Ali-Frazier just happened...the wind and mountain vs. 6 cyclists...we won in a split decision
-Tomorrow will be very very hard...

Today was an interesting day to say the least. The four of us left the campsite around 8:00 into a wind coming from our 10:00 position. So not a complete headwind but certainly not a tailwind. It started at around 10mph and gradually got stronger through the day. We rode about 10 miles and glanced back to see two other cyclists coming our way. They turned out to be Eddy and Katy, a couple from London that Paul, Nadine, and Ricky had met on a few different occasions in the weeks before. So there were now 6 of us pedaling away towards the hardest part of our cross-county journey...Emory Pass. Our first 45 miles of the day weren't too bad. We had a constant wind of 15-20mph but it was mostly from 9:00-10:00 so not too much of a headwind. It made us slower for sure but since we were only going 63 miles it wouldn't be a big deal. At the 45 mile mark, we took a lunch break and prepared for what wee figured to be the hardest part of the trip thus far...until tomorrow at least. We had to take a 90 degree turn and head due west...directly into a 28mph constant wind with wind gusts at 42mph. No I am not exaggerating...we measured it! We finally got the fortitude to continue on after pumping ourselves up...when I got another flat tire on the front tire...leaving the parking lot!! So we ducked back behind the building out of the wind and changed the tube again. 3 flats in 4 days is not cool. Anyway, we re-gathered ourselves and headed out into the monster of wind. Did I mention that we had to climb 1500 feet in the next 17 miles. Oh my goodness. It was outrageous. The first 12 miles involved a few climbs that were super hard fighting the wind but was mostly flat. We were going 7-8mph...on a flat road!! It's scary to say this...but it was somewhat fun. Quite a battle. However, the last 5 miles...were the most ridiculous thing any of us had ever done on a bicycle, especially the last 2 miles. That includes Paul & Ricky who have gone on long tours before...Paul many times. We had some really long climbs that were decently steep and literally the strongest winds I have every been outside in for an extended period of time. A few of us stopped after one big hill to wait for the others and it was hard to stand. We almost blew over...the street signs were shaking violently. Going up the next hill...if you stopped pedaling for a were going backwards. I kid you not, the wind would push you backwards. Such a hard fought climb. Then the fun began...going through some tight curves at 5500 feet. Bend left...little wind...bend right...30mph wind. Similar to getting punched and having to keep going. When we got to the top of the day's climb...we had to go down about 250 feet to the town of Hillsboro, NM to get to a hotel for the night. So we coasted down the mountain at 35mph...oh wait, no we didn't. We pedaled as hard as we could to go 8mph...downhill!! At one point going around a corner and directly into the wind...I was barely moving and pedaling hard. Every gust sent me a little sideways and slowed me to about 3mph. They were 40-42mph gusts. Strong enough to pick up the dirt and gravel from the road and lift it into my face. I thought I was going to get blown straight off the mountain. The sickest part was that it was so ridiculous...I was loving it and laughing the whole time. It was just too outrageous not to love.

Anyway, we all finally got into the town that was supposed to have 2 motels, a B&B, a restaurant, and a supermarket. Of course, it had 1 motel and nothing else besides a cafe that closes at 12 everyday. It also opens at 8, which means we won't get to leave until after we eat tomorrow since we need a good breakfast to climb the mountain...but more on that in a minute. Anyway, after dealing with some very inconsiderate hotel managers who tried to charge us an extra $10 per person to sleep on the floor and still charging $70 for the room...we did some bike maintenance (spokes and tubes) and then thought about dinner. Ricky went to the cafe to look for something and got lucky when the owner gave him spaghetti, sauce, lettuce, and bread. We still had some rice and beef flavored packets of some sort that we could make plus that new food so we ended up having quite a nice Valentine's Day dinner. The 6 of us enjoyed a solid meal of spaghetti tortillas with cheese and lettuce, bread, and then cookies for dessert.

Tomorrow, since we have to eat so late...we will pedal away probably around 9. The first 9 miles to the next town, we will climb about 1000 feet, and then comes the hardest part of the trip...and not coincidently...the highest. We will go up 2500 feet in about 15 miles to a total of 8,250ish feet. It will possibly be snowing, but there will definitely be snow on the ground since it is snowing there now. It will be harder to breathe as well.

After we make it to the top...there is a fork in the road in terms of the map. One option is 71 miles longer and very difficult with a lot of big hills and one even steeper climb but leads to the Gila Cliff Dwellings and Hot Springs. That was my intended route, but I have been really worried that my bike may not make that route. The downhill is what really scares me. Going into Gila is a brutal 7 mile climb which would obviously stink, but then a 7 mile decent that is equally steep. Thus, I would have to ride the brakes the whole time. That would heat up the frame which would in turn weaken it which scares me. Anyway, the cliff dwellings and hot springs seemed worth it. The other option is much shorter with only a few minor-moderate hills before meeting up with the other route in Silver City, NM. The final decision is the best of both worlds really. The couple from London also want to see Gila but also don't want to bike it. Therefore, we are going to stick with Paul, Nadine, and Ricky tomorrow after the top of Emory Pass and continue the 40 or so miles to Silver City. Then on Thursday morning, we are going to split a car rental and spend the day at Gila driving the route we would have had to do on bikes. Even though it would have been cool to say I conquered the Gila Monster...I don't want to do it at the expense of my bike. So I'm happy with the choice.

Well, I need a good night's sleep for tomorrow's climb...wish me luck!! Happy Valentine's Day!!

P.S. Thank you for the strong response to my fundraising pledge...getting closer!

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