Day Thirty-Six

Seminole, TX to Artesia, NM

That's not a typo on the Reports page--I rode 108 miles today, far more than any other day so far. In fact, I made up for yesterday's rest day by doing two days in one. I started the day with favorable east winds, fairly flat terrain and smooth pavement. I made such good time, it seemed a shame to stop so soon, so I stretched it out.

After two weeks, I was finally leaving Texas, and I would miss the state. Texans were exemplary drivers with very rare exceptions (most of whom were east of Mineral Wells). People didn't yell things  at me or honk obnoxiously (take it from me, you don't have to honk at every cyclist on the road--they are more aware of you than you are of them--and it's even more rude than honking at fellow motorists). In West Texas, no one even passed closely. In fact, often oncoming vehicles would veer onto the shoulder to give traffic going my way more room to pass me. It was nothing short of amazing. And aside from the rough gravel paving in places (ironically, the most recently " paved" roads were the roughest), the roads were also excellent. There were wide shoulders, and I cannot recall a single road that was in dire need of maintenance.

US 180 joined with US 62 from Seminole west on a big four-lane highway with wide shoulders. With the tailwind, I really flew down the road. It was the first day on the whole trip that I rode mostly in the biggest chainring (highest gears). I covered the 24 miles to the New Mexico state line in less than 1-1/2 hours. Soon after crossing into New Mexico, I rode into Hobbs. My original plan was to ride from there to Lovington, about 20 miles away. Since the day was going so well, I decided to continue to Carlsbad, about 67 miles from Hobbs. That would give me nearly 100 miles for the day, but I felt like I was up to it.

On the west end of town, I stopped at a Conoco station to stock up for the long gap between towns. I picked up a mini-pizza and searched for a drink. Something caught my eye actually it called my name--Dave! Even better, there was a picture of a cyclist on the label. I had to buy it, even though it was some kind of weird green tea with hemp, ginseng and royal jelly. It turned out to taste okay, but thirst or hunger  can make anything taste better. There was also an ATM there, which was good since I had about $30 in cash left in my wallet. As I stood there, a guy sitting in a restaurant booth nearby by called out to me. " I used to do what you're doing," he said. Really? So began an awkward conversation--talking to a stranger  while using an ATM is akin to talking while standing at a urinal. It's just not normal.

I paid for my lunch, then I joined the guy in the booth while I ate. He said that he rode from ages 15 to 25. He dreamed of riding in the Tour de France, but now he drives a truck. He found my trip to be pretty interesting. After awhile, he pointed at an ashtray. " I never should have started that," he said. " They say it's harder to quit cigarettes than cocaine. Been smoking since I was 25."

" So you stopped cycling and started smoking?" I asked incredulously. It seemed like an odd switch.

" Yeah, started smoking, got married, had kids... But I still ride every once in awhile," he said.

Both of us had to get back on the road, so we said goodbye. I looked at my map and calculated that it would be an extra ten miles to ride to Artesia instead of Carlsbad. That would mean more than 100 miles today, but it would save me about 35 miles of riding tomorrow. I had a few miles to think about it before I had to choose one. West of Hobbs, US 62/180 was a divided four-lane with Texas-sized shoulders. For the first time in weeks I had to deal with rumble strips. They were deep but narrow, so I still had plenty of road to ride. I was still cruising along around 18 mph, so I decided to go for Artesia on SR 529.

Like other numbered roads in New Mexico, SR 529 had mile markers. I had mixed feelings about those. It was nice to know where I was, but it was hard to keep from watching the miles tick away (for the same reason, I set my cyclometer to show time, not distance, only checking the latter occasionally). The only thing that kept me from counting miles was the fantastic scenery, which seemed to change every 15 minutes. There were more hills, but most of them weren't too difficult. The wind also changed direction so that it was more of a crosswind than a tailwind. It didn't push me back, but it didn't scoot me down the road like it had earlier.

Economically, southeastern New Mexico was much like West Texas--oil country. In addition to countless pumps, there were several natural gas processing plants. Occasionally, the air was foul with oil, gas or sulphur odors. The only town before Artesia along my route was Loco Hills. Ironically, despite hundreds of nearby oil wells and at least a dozen businesses in this small town related to the oil industry, there was not a single retail gas station to be found in Loco Hills. At least there was a small grocery where I could top off my water bottles. I noticed a sign below the counter that said, " We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone." The clerk was a fellow cyclist, so I had nothing to worry about.

I already had surpassed my previous best mileage, and I still had 25 miles to go to Artesia. The road wasn't flat  and the wind wasn't helping me anymore, but I still felt good.  Just east of Artesia was a long downhill, at least five miles according to the markers. I could see the town on the way down, but I still had another five miles to go when the road leveled out. There were many  oil service companies on the outskirts of town with lots of rusted tanks and other assorted junk. I guessed that the city wouldn't allow such blight, so these companies all set up shop just outside the city limits.

When I got into Artesia, there was one final character-building exercise of the day--all of the motels were south on US 287, which meant riding into the wind for the last few miles. When I finally reached the Artesia Inn, I was tired but happy.

The motel clerk was a real smart-aleck. " Warm enough?" she asked when I walked in. I explained that I had just ridden my bike from Seminole, which I thought explained my sweat. " What kind of bike you riding?" I said it was a touring bike, but that she probably hadn't heard of the manufacturer, Co-Motion, because they were small. She hadn't. " It's going to take you a long time to get anywhere if you're only going 100 miles a day," she observed. Considering that this was my longest day yet, I found that comment especially  irritating. Then I said that I had started in Savannah, Georgia, and that I'd been on the road for about 35 days. " Independently wealthy?" she asked dryly. I told you she was a smart-aleck. I replied that I'd been saving up for this, which is half true--actually, I'd been saving money for nothing in particular, then this tour came along. The only thing I could figure, giving her the benefit of the doubt, was that she thought " bike" meant " motorcycle" (because I might not have explicitly said " bicycle" ). She gave me my key and said I could park in front of my room. Either that was just her standard line, or she thought I had a motorcycle. I wanted to say that I intended to take my bike inside with me, but the last thing I needed was any flak about it, and quite frankly, I couldn't wait to get away from this woman. One of my favorite  things about travel is that when someone bugs me, I know I'll probably never see that person again--that makes it a lot easier not to  get irritated.

I didn't feel like going out, so I ordered another P'Zone Power Pack. The delivery guy forgot to bring my Pepsi. He came back an hour later after I had finished eating, and to make it up to me, he brought me two bottles. Gee, thanks. What was I going to do with four liters of Pepsi?!? I didn't even have room in my panniers to carry a bottle that big.

Totals for the day: 108.00 miles in 6:45:18 for a 16.0 mph average.

Click here to see today's photos.

Copyright 2002-2013 David Johnsen. All rights reserved.