Day Thirty-Eight

Roswell, NM

So much for riding to Capitan today. I was all ready to go, too. Early wake-up call, panniers packed up the night before... Then  this morning I noticed that my front tire was flat. No big deal, I'll just patch it up and be on my way. I hadn't had a flat in 1,100 miles, so I couldn't complain. I found the culprit, a burr that I must have picked up while pulling off the road to take a picture. I also found something else. There was a small chunk of rubber cut out of the tire, exposing the kevlar belt underneath. Now I had a dilemma. I probably could have ridden on that tire, maybe even beyond this tour. On the other hand, I could have had a bigger problem, especially since it was a front tire. The last thing I needed was to blow a front  tire while flying downhill at 40 mph. To top it off, I was heading into perhaps the most remote part of my journey. There was a bike shop in Roswell, the last one I would be near for several hundred miles. I assumed that the bike shop opened at 10 AM. By the time I got out of there, it would be at least 11:00, which would make riding to Capitan  difficult at best, especially since the wind was supposed to pick up in the afternoon.

I decided that discretion was the better part of valor. I waited around until the bike shop opened and rode over there. Like most bike shops, Roswell Schwinn didn't have much in the way of touring tires. After sorting through countless 26" mountain bike tires and nearly settling for a cheap off-brand 700x38 tire, we finally found a 700x35 Avocet Cross. I remembered several people on the Touring E-mail list raving about this tire, so I felt confident that it would be fine. The mechanic was an old hippie with long, graying hair in a ponytail and a soothing, mellow voice--he reminded me of the jeweler who made my wife's engagement ring and our wedding rings. We talked about my bike while he changed my tire. He asked if I wanted a thorn-resistant tube. Considering that I had just pulled a burr out of a  tire a few hours earlier, it seemed like a good idea. He added, " Everything that grows out here has thorns."

The other guy was supposed to ring me up, but he started helping another customer instead. That customer turned out to be something of a poseur. First he bragged about being from Lance Armstrong's hometown, Plano, Texas. He wanted to buy a cyclometer for someone as a gift and the salesman said he'd sell him one " just like Lance uses, or at least used to use since it's the 2000 model." The customer didn't seem to understand why this cyclometer had " advertising for the post office" on it. Anyone who doesn't even know that Armstrong rides for the U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team probably doesn't know much of anything about him. While I stood there patiently, a guy who was just sort of hanging out (almost every bike shop has at least one or two of those--even Joe's in Selma had one) started talking to me. He had  only one front tooth, and I had the darnedest time trying to understand what he was saying. Naturally, he asked me lots of questions.  Finally, the salesman rang me up so I could go on my way. It was $25 for the tire, $8 for the tube and, so far as I could tell, nothing for the labor of installing them for me. He also  let me have a  water bottle for free, " as a souvenir." It may not sound like much, but I really needed another water bottle. One of the bottles I had brought with was previously unused, and it turned out that it leaked around the lid when I squeezed it too hard. This was so annoying that each day when my first bottle ran out, I would stop and pour the water from the leaky bottle into the empty bottle.  The Schwinn bottle was designed just like my good bottle, so now that other bottle wouldn't be annoying me anymore. Besides, it couldn't hurt to add capacity for the part of my trip where towns, and potentially services,  would be 70+ miles apart.

For several days, I had been looking for a place to mail some stuff home. When I walked out of Roswell Schwinn, I saw a packing and mailing shop just a few doors down. Perfect! I leaned the bike against the wall outside and started going through my panniers. After ten minutes, I had amassed four books, a big pile of receipts, a glass bottle (from the " Dave" drink I had a couple days ago in Hobbs), several brochures and maps of Texas and Mississippi. I went inside and plopped the whole pile on the table. One of the two women there set about packing my odd assortment of things. I alternated looking toward  her and looking at my bike out the window. She noticed right away--my twitchiness was probably making her nervous. " You can bring your bike inside." Oh, thank you!

My package weighed more than ten pounds. I was thrilled--that was ten pounds that I wouldn't have to lug  through the mountains. At this rate, by the time I got to California, I'd be traveling pretty light.  I had a long conversation with the women there--having missed the early start, I wasn't leaving Roswell today anyway, so I had the time. One of them  used to live near Chicago, in Burr Ridge. She said Roswell was quite a change--there was nothing to do and there weren't many jobs. Of course, the weirdest thing was the UFO and alien stuff. She said she quickly learned that it wasn't a good idea to express any skepticism about the Roswell Incident and UFO's because there are people who feel very strongly about it. In 1997, there was a surreal celebration of the fiftieth anniversary. The town was packed with people dressed up like aliens. She said she just wished that Chicago was more affordable. I asked what rent was like in Roswell. She said that they had rented a three-bedroom house with a two-car garage that was only three years old for just $800 a month. That amount would barely cover a one-bedroom apartment in much of Chicago.

Before I left, I borrowed a tape measure so that I could set my cyclometer for the diameter of my new tire. Then I headed north to stay in a different motel. The Leisure Inn was a pretty nice place with a reasonable rate, but it wasn't near any restaurants. There were plenty of places to eat just north of downtown where most of the motels were located. After riding up and down the street checking out prices (including a surprisingly high $40.99 for Motel 6), I settled on the National 9 Motel. I had a coupon for $28.95, and I figured it would justify carrying the travel coupon magazine all the way from Louisiana if I used it. Besides, the name reminded me of a goofy motorcycle road trip movie I rented with my brother several years ago called Roadside Prophets. It starred John Doe of the L.A. countrified punk band X and had cameos by Timothy Leary and Arlo Guthrie, among others. One of the characters had an obsession with staying at a chain called Motel 9. I figured that  National 9 was probably as close as I was going to get. The room was a bit worn but clean and spacious. My only big complaint was that the telephone was located too far from the bed (and the cord was too short) for me to hook up my laptop online and lay on the bed. That will be a rude awakening when I go back to the work world: " You mean I have to sit in a chair?"

Totals for the day: 9.12 miles in 47:09 for an 11.6 mph average.

Click here to see Roswell photos.

Copyright 2002-2013 David Johnsen. All rights reserved.