Sunday, August 18, 2013

Day 7 of The Southern New Mexico Bicycle Tour - Alamogordo to Cloudcroft - The Long Way

Day 6 of my tour was interesting. I encountered rain, fog, sun, coolness, and just a bit of heat.  I arrived in Alamogordo fairly early and had plenty of time to rest and prepare for what would be the most difficult ride of the entire tour.  Cloudcroft is only 20 miles from Alamogordo and the climb is over 4,500 feet.  I decided to not attempt that ride because there are no shoulders on the road and a long tunnel to go through too.  I figured that I might be risking my life trying to ride the busy highway up to Cloudcroft while hauling a heavy trailer on a road that offered no safety.  Instead, I decided that I would make a 68 mile trip to Cloudcroft by going to Tularosa, up past Mescalero, and then taking beautiful Highway 244 over to Cloudcroft.

Alamogordo to Tularosa is only 12 miles and it is flat.  I used that part of the ride to make sure that my legs were warm and ready for the climb that started immediately upon leaving Tularosa and not stopping until I arrived in Cloudcroft 56 miles away.  I had traveled this same highway from Ruidoso down to Tularosa just a few days earlier.  I remember thinking, as I motored at almost 40 mph down the mountain, how difficult the ride would be going back uphill. Here is a photo I took at the start of the climb.

The climb from Tularosa up to the highway that I would be taking over to Cloudcroft was 3,000 feet.  This 3,000 feet took place over about 22 miles.  I was a little surprised that, with this being my 7th day of riding, that the climb was as easy as it was.  I stopped in Mescalero and took this photo of a beautiful church and took a few minutes to think about how much I had enjoyed touring through southern New Mexico.

I had not been on Highway 244 before so I did not know what to expect, but I figured since I had climbed 3,000 feet already, I would only have about 1500 feet to climb over the last 30 miles. I was feeling good and was excited to complete the tour.  The first seven miles on this highway changed my attitude.  In fact, by the time I finished the first seven miles on Highway 244, I began wondering how I was going to survive the rest of my tour.  Up to this point in the entire tour, I felt pretty good.  My legs never suffered much, even on the climbs, but suddenly I felt them die. That is a bad feeling when you know that you have a big climb ahead and many miles to go. This is a picture I took about 3 miles into this first climb of 1,000 feet.  There was no shoulder but the traffic was very light so I never worried about my safety.  The sun started to beat down on me about this time and, with my legs going dead, I was not having fun.

When I got to the top of the climb at mile 7 I felt relief.  I was not ready for the 1,000 foot descent that would happen in just a couple of miles.  When you go into a sort of survival mode when your legs die, your mind starts playing games too.  I now knew that I would once again have to make the 1,000 foot climb plus the other 1,000 feet or so that I thought I had left.  I wondered when that climb would come. Surprisingly, it would be a long way off as many miles passed down in a valley.  I took this photo at around mile marker 23.  A big part of this ride ambled through the flat valley floor, which really helped my legs rest from what was coming.  I was happy, but worried if I had enough in my dead legs to climb the 2,000 feet I knew was coming up very soon.

About 493 miles into the tour, and about 10 miles from reaching my destination in Cloudcroft, I started the final climb.  My legs were so dead at this point that I was in full survival mode. I even stopped and dumped all of the bottles of water I had left in my trailer just to cut whatever weight I could from my trailer.  The climb was slow but steady.  When you go into survival mode like this you just try to keep your legs moving and you don't worry about how slow you are going.  There were times when my pace was about 5 mph.  I would look ahead to see if I was near the top of the climb but found myself constantly disillusioned by seeing the road continue to climb as I approached each curve.

The final picture I took on the road was this one.  I did not know it, but I was almost at the top of the climb.  I would descend very rapidly for about 2 miles after this and then had just about a mile to the cabin.  I did not see the ray of sunshine that you see on the picture when I took it.  I really like this photo.

I turns out that the 4500 feet I thought I was going to climb on this final day of cycling was actually 6000 feet. I arrived at the cabin in Cloudcroft about an hour after my wife and son had arrived there from Lubbock (in a car).  My oldest son's family had just arrived and my other two children and their families would be arriving later.  I was thrilled to finish the ride.  I have to admit that I was too exhausted to get emotional.  I really just wanted to sit in a bathtub of warm water and get some well earned rest.  Once I did that, I was ready for a fun family weekend.  Here is a picture of the Bear Ridge cabin we stayed at in Cloudcroft.  I never thought I would be so happy to see a place as much as I was when I saw it at the end of one of the most fun vacations I had ever had.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Day 6 of the Southern New Mexico Bicycle Tour - Las Cruces to Alamogordo

The ride from Alamogordo to Las Cruces on Day 5 was fairly easy until I got to the long climb up the Organ Mountains pass just before dropping down into Las Cruces.  I wondered as I rode down the long slope toward the city just how difficult the climb back over the pass going back to Alamogordo would be.  I figured it would be difficult but not as difficult as going up the other side.  Of course, the climb was going to be at the first of the ride instead of the end like it was on day 5.

I had a rest day and got to enjoy my oldest son's family.  We went out to eat a few times and I was feeling a bit overstuffed by the time I got on my bike to make the trek back to Alamogordo.  I noticed the radar on my phone showed a real chance of heavy rains the next morning and that worried me a little.  I would be traveling on a very busy highway and people in Las Cruces are not used to driving in the rain often.

I woke up to a threat of rain.  It was overcast but had not started raining when I left.  It was about 3 miles to the highway and just as I turned on to the frontage road, the rain started coming down. Clouds moved over quickly and the visibility became limited.  Thankfully, I was going to be able to stay on the frontage road until about 2 miles from the summit.  I worried about the visibility that the vehicles had.  I could see plenty because of my slower speed, but I knew that the vehicles were not looking for me.  You may notice on the photo that you can barely see the mountains in the background.  On a clear day, they are very prominent in the background.

The climb was not as hard as day 5's.  I knew the final 2 miles would be steep but the first 6 miles, or so, were a gradual climb. This photo was about halfway to the summit and, again, the huge mountains in the distance are barely noticeable. The rain started coming and going.  It was not cold like it was coming down the mountain from Ruidoso so I decided to not wear a jacket.  In fact, it felt really nice.

As I climbed nearer to the summit the fog moved in and it looked like I was riding during a winter day.  It really is hard to believe that this was July 18th in hot Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Entering Organ, a small village just before you get to the summit, it appeared that the clouds would lift but then, as the next two photos show, it started raining harder than it had up to that point.

The final 2 miles were steep and made my legs burn more than I wanted but it was not nearly as tough as it was coming up the other side.  If I wanted to train on this pass and only had time to work out on one side, I would definitely pick the side coming up from Alamogordo. If I wanted to "weenie-out," I would pick this side, but it still was tough.

I stopped at the summit because I needed to use the restroom and because I was tired.  As I was walking back to my bicycle, which I had propped up on a fence, I took this photo.  I love this photo.  I'm not sure why, maybe it's because of the harshness of the way the weather looked. Actually, it wasn't that bad but I like the picture anyway.
The ride down the other side of the mountain was very fast. About 1/2 mile down the mountain, the fog lifted and the rain stopped.  This photo was taken about 3/4 mile down the mountain.  It was amazing how quickly the conditions changed. 
The rest of the ride was on the flats of the missile range.  The sun came out and the temperature stayed in the 80's, which is unusual for this part of the state in July.  It is usually around 100 degrees at this time of the
year.  I wasn't complaining.  I decided to go easy for the rest of today's ride because I knew I would have to wake up tomorrow and climb 6,000 feet in 68 miles as I completed my tour in Cloudcroft.  Surprisingly, a cloud moved in just as I arrived in Alamogordo and I rode about 5 miles in the rain to finish off the ride.

Today was fun because of the conditions. Tomorrow would be the most difficult ride of the tour but it was one that I could not wait to do.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Day 5 of the Tour of Southern New Mexico - Alamogordo to Las Cruces

The extra rest I got after Day 4's short ride down to Alamogordo from Ruidoso was helpful. I woke up refreshed and had no neck or back pain.  The sun was shining so I was ready to hit the road.  The ride from Alamogordo to Las Cruces is mostly flat and across the White Sands Missile Range, but there is a mountain pass to go over toward the end of the ride.  The mountains are visible the entire ride, so the dread of the steep climb stayed in the mind even when the riding was easy while on the flats.

White Sands national Monument is about 15 miles out of Alamogordo. You only see some of the white sands that are held back by some small bushes from the highway.  If you go back into the park, the park is really cool because you get immersed in a scene that is unlike any others and that is miles and miles of huge white sand dunes.  Make sure to take a sled so you can have some fun while out there.  I did not ride my bike out to the sand dunes, but I did stop at the visitor's center to rest for a while before heading out on a very long , hot flat section of the ride before climbing over the mountains to Las Cruces.

The ride to the pass was really quite easy.  I had a flat but was lucky enough to have it near a sign where I was able to prop the bike up in order to get the trailer off and change the flat.  This was my second flat of the trip but it was not going to be my last.  As usual, it was caused by a very small piece of radial tire steel belt.

I stopped just before starting the climb up the pass.  The climb is sudden and fairly steep.  The mountains near Ruidoso are not as difficult as this hill would be because you climb a few thousand feet at a smaller grade.  This is a steep 7 mile climb.  It got more difficult the closer you got to the top.  The photo you see here is very near the top just before you look down and see Las Cruces.

The final 10 or 15 miles down to Las Cruces is the nice reward for the difficult climb up the pass.  It is all downhill and very quick.  Of course, I knew that a couple of days from now, I was going to be going back up this side on my way back to Alamogordo.  I wondered which side would be the most difficult side to climb.  I suspected it would be the side I climbed today.

I was going to stay at my oldest son's house. I was surprised to see his family outside waiting for me when I arrived.  They had made me a cool sign with a mile marker that just happened to be exactly right.  I had covered 370 miles as I approached his house.  I would take a rest day the next day and then I would head back to Alamogordo and then up to Cloudcroft.  I knew that it would be the most difficult days of my ride but I just wanted to rest and have a couple of days of fun.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Day 4 of My Tour of Southern New Mexico - Ruidoso to Alamogordo

Day 3 of my tour was a 4,000 foot climb from Roswell to Ruidoso. It was a 72 mile leg and was surprisingly much easier than I thought it would be.  When I planned my trip, I figured that this leg would completely wipe me out and make the next day's ride a difficult one.  Because of that, I decided to only ride 50 miles on day 4, which was from Ruidoso down to Alamogordo.  It was mostly downhill, so I figured that this leg would be sort of a day of rest even though I would be riding.

I had not been in Ruidoso for many years and had forgot that there is still a pretty good climb out of Ruidoso. In fact, the first 9 miles out of Ruidoso consisted of 1,000 feet of climbing up to the summit.  It was a little difficult to climb immediately upon starting the ride but the day was really cool, so I figured I could push it a little bit because the next 21 miles was going to be a very fast downhill ride with a descent of about 3,000 feet.  You can see by the photos of the climb that it was real wet and cool.  I was very wet by the time I had climbed to the summit.  That would cause me a problem when I started the downhill section.

I started the downhill section and started having thoughts that I would just pass through Alamogordo and go on to Las Cruces.  I figured I would be in Alamogordo so early that there was no reason to stay there when Las Cruces was only about 70 miles away.  That would make this easy day turn out to be around 120 miles.  I don't know why I would want to do that, but that is what I had in mind.  Boy did things change quickly.
I immediately picked up some pretty fast speed.  As I approached 40 mph I noticed that the trailer I was hauling behind me started to feel a little unstable behind me so I made sure that I kept my speed around 35 mph.  

The road down to Mescalero was really pretty, but I began to feel some effects that made the trip less than enjoyable.  The temperature was in the low 50's and the speed I was traveling meant that the wind chill my body was feeling was around freezing.  My fingers started getting numb as a result.  I stopped in Mescalero and took this picture.  I think you can see that I was uncomfortably cold.  I had a rain jacket on but did not bring gloves or any other cold weather clothes.  After all, it was mid-July and even the mountains of New Mexico seldom get down to these temperatures.

The picture of the church is in Mescalero also.  I think it is a beautiful building and looks even more majestic against the beautiful backdrop.  The other photo is about 7 miles more downhill as the road started to flatten out.  The road finally flattened out and I was back on the desert floor when I got to Tularosa.

Alamogordo is just 12 miles from Tularosa. It was still very early in the morning so I still had thoughts of going on to Las Cruces.  If I did go to Las Cruces, it would give me an additional rest day before I turned around and headed back to Alamogordo and then the huge climb up to Cloudcroft.  That is why I figured it would be best to go on.

About halfway between Tularosa and Alamogordo I started feeling bad.  My neck and back were really bothering me.  I figured that going downhill at such a fast speed made it more difficult on my neck than I thought.  My helmet has a visor and I think that the wind hits it and I, unknowingly, had to fight it and it put pressure on my neck and back.  Eventually, I got real sore and became very uncomfortable.

I was also shivering from the cold. It did warm up as soon as I dropped down to the desert again, but it was overcast and there was a threat of rain as I headed into Alamogordo.  Just as I entered the city limits, the rain started coming down.  I decided to go eat somewhere so that I could dry off some.  As I ate, I realized that the last 4 days of riding had finally caught up with me.  My original idea of using this 4th day of riding as a short day and then a long rest was a good idea, so I went to a hotel and they let me check in early.  I cleaned up and fell asleep for about 3 hours.  I am glad I did not try to cover the 70 miles to Las Cruces.

Day 5 would be a ride across the White Sands Missile Range and over a very tough mountain pass.  My arrival in Las Cruces would bring me to my oldest son's house.  I was looking forward to seeing his family. He has three young boys and I knew that I would have a good time spending some time with them before I headed back to what should be the most difficult part of my trip.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Day 3 of the Tour of Southern New Mexico - Roswell to Ruidoso

After the mistakes of not carrying enough water and food on my second leg of my bicycle tour from Tatum to Roswell, I decided to never let it happen again. I went to a supermarket in Roswell and bought enough water, Gatorade, and gluten free snacks (Yes, I am gluten sensitive) to ensure that I would never make the same mistake again.  In fact, I am pretty sure I over compensated, but with a 4,000 foot climb into the mountains over a 70 mile ride looming the next day, I was going to be safe instead of sorry.

I weighed my trailer before leaving Roswell. Surprisingly, the extra bottles and food jacked the total weight I was hauling behind me to about 50 pounds.  I knew this might cause some problems on the climbs but I figured the trade off of not going into dehydration or eating enough was worth it.

Another problem I have had with touring is that it has been difficult to become more of a touring cyclist and less of a road cyclist.  For years, I have rode my bicycle with time goals in mind. Usually I would try to finish a century or a metric century in a set time. Touring is different.  You should really just try to enjoy the ride. Don't worry about what time you get to your destination as long as you have light.  It turns out that day 3 was the ride that turned me into a true touring cyclist. I finally learned to just go ride and enjoy.  I guess you can say that I finally decided to stop and smell the roses.

My daughter lives on the east side of Roswell. Ruidoso is west so I would have to start today's leg by crossing the city.  Roswell has a bicycle trail that runs across the whole town. I rode it all the way to the highway west of town and found it to be a really cool trail. Take a look at some of the pictures of it.
The bicycle trail in Roswell was really nice.

You start climbing immediately as soon as you leave Roswell.  You are not in the mountains until you get about 40 miles away but the foothills loom immediately.  In fact, I found the first 30 miles of today's leg to be the most difficult part of the ride.  As I got into the mountains, the road just continued a gradual climb all the way into Ruidoso. Those first 30 miles had many long, stepper climbs followed by flat straightaways.
I found lots of places to stop and re-hydrate and just enjoy the ride.

I was very cognizant of my water needs and food intake.  I decided to stop every 10 miles, relax, and enjoy a snack.  It made for a much more enjoyable ride. There is a huge downhill grade after many miles of gradual climbing about 38 miles out of Roswell.  After that, you start a gradual climb the rest of the way.  This is when you start seeing hills and you realize that you are making the transition from desert into mountains.  After 2 days of long, hot, flat riding, this was exciting to experience.

I can't say that the heat was less intense.  The temperatures stayed in the upper 90's until I got about 6 miles out of Ruidoso. After that, the temperature began to fall rather quickly. Little would I know that I would not feel the intense heat of days 1 and 2 again for the rest of my tour.  I cannot say I was unhappy about that but I can say I was surprised.

Even though you enter the mountains many miles before you get to Ruisoso, you don't really experience the tall pines until just a few miles before you arrive.  I am not saying that the scenery is not pretty. It really is cool.  As you ride, there are mountains to your right side, with beautiful, stream fed valleys over to the left side.  Sometimes, it was difficult to focus on the road as I would see something in the valley and get caught up watching it.

On the first two days, I would stop at convenience stores and someone would always come up to me and want to discuss what I was doing.  I met some really cool people and had some great conversations.  Since I had food and drink with me on today's leg, I never interacted with anyone until I got to the hotel.  I enjoy talking to people but I must admit that today I loved the feeling of solitude.

The last couple of miles into Ruidoso was a much more difficult climb than it appeared to be.  The photo of me at the city limit sign shows that I was a bit breathless as I came into town but I was extremely proud of making a 3,300 foot climb so easily.  As a flatlander from Lubbock, Texas I could see that the many times I trained by riding into strong winds had payed off as I entered the hills.  When you live on flatlands, you have to use wind training to get ready for the climbs you will encounter on a tour like this.  I still had over 10,000 feet of climbing ahead of me so I knew I had to keep my nutritional needs in mind.

Just one hour after arriving in Ruidoso, it started to rain.  The weather got much cooler and would stay that way over night.  My 4th leg would be, what I thought, the easiest of the tour as I was going to ride only 50 miles down the mountain to Alamogordo.  The extreme coolness, wetness, and lack of preparation for it would catch me off guard. I will post day 4's leg soon.  Check it out.
The clouds moved in just one hour after arriving in Rudioso

Day 2 of the Tour of Southern New Mexico - Tatum to Roswell

Another Day of Hot, Flat Wide Open Land.
This Day Was More Difficult Than I
Thought It Would Be.
After the first day ride between Lubbock, Texas and Tatum, New Mexico of 103 miles in some pretty extreme heat, I figured that day 2 would be a pretty easy day.  Wow! Was I ever wrong.  The ride was only 72 miles and it was relatively flat. There was supposed to be very little wind and it was not going to be a head wind either.  I knew that the real challenge was on day 3 as I would climb about 4,000 feet in just over 70 miles from Roswell to Ruidoso.  My daughter and her family live in Roswell so I was looking forward to getting there in just a few hours and spending some time with my grandchildren.

There is very little between Tatum and Roswell.  Unlike the day before where towns are set out about 30 miles apart, there are no towns between these two places.  I knew that there was a small country store at Caprock, which is about halfway between Tatum and Roswell so I filled my bottles up and decided to not buy any more Gatorade or water in Tatum since that would weigh down the trailer.  I still had 3 bottles left over from day 1's ride so I was not worried. I would replenish at Caprock.

The ride to Caprock was pretty easy but it started to really heat up by the time I arrived at the little store.  I had just finished the bottles on my bicycle. Before I went into the store I filled up my water bottles with two of the three bottles I had in my trailer.  That left me with only one bottle of water so I knew I had better buy some in the store.

The Caprock Country Store - Not Really a Store
I had seen the Caprock store for years as I traveled back and forth to Roswell but I had never stopped there.  I wish I had because it turns out that it really wasn't a store.  It is really a house that an old man sells can sodas and makes meals for people. It is only open 4 hours per day and the owner is not a real friendly guy.  I bought a soda and sat in the shade and drank it. I knew there was a rest stop about 7 miles down the road so I decided to fill up my water bottles there.  I only had about 35 miles to go from there so I was not worried about things.

When I got to the rest stop, I suddenly became very alarmed.  There are signs in the restroom telling you to not drink the water because it is not safe.  Now I was a little concerned.  I had my two water bottles on my bicycle and one more bottle of water in my trailer.  The temperature was starting to get pretty intense.  I figured that my 80+ ounces of fluids would have to be rationed to get me to Roswell.
The Rest Stop Had Nice Shade But No Drinkable Water

I took off from the rest stop and started making some really good time as the slight breeze moved onto my back, but it all stopped when I realized that my back tire had gone flat.  Changing a tire is usually no big deal, but changing this tire was a new kind of hassle for me because of the hassle of unhitching the trailer and then re-hitching it.  There was no shade anywhere near where I was and the heat became very intense.  A normal 10 minute flat repair ended up becoming a 30 minute repair because of the trailer. I was wishing I had practiced this before leaving. Oh well, I knew that a second flat would be easier because I learned a few things this time.

My Trailer is Unhitched and That is My Flat
Tube. The Bicycle is Across the Highway
Leaned Up Against a Sign So I can Re-Hitch
the Trailer. It Was Hot Hot Hot!
As I was starting to leave, a guy stopped his car and walked back to where I was. He wanted to know if I needed help. I told him I was just finishing up and getting ready to head off.  It turns out he is a cyclist from the Houston area and was on his way to Ruidoso.  He told me he had some ice in his car and offered it to me.  My water was hot by now so I welcomed it.  He told me that he envied me for what I was doing and I told him that I envied him at that moment for having air conditioning.

I had made yet another mistake that caused me some real discomfort.  I did not have enough to eat during the ride.  You are burning calories at a pretty fast clip on rides like this.  If you do not replace some of those calories, you stand a chance of getting weak as you ride.  Again, I was expecting the country store to have some snacks, so I did not buy anything before leaving Tatum.  BIG MISTAKE!  I began feeling sick by now and I still had about 25 miles to go.  The heat was getting to me and here I was trying to ration my water, which was hot.  This was not turning out to being a good day.

I came over a small rise in the road and saw a sign that will scare any cyclist; "Road Construction Ahead - Traffic Reduced to One Lane."  It turns out that the road construction was 2 miles long. I was waved through when the lead car lead the cars down the one lane.  Two miles away, the east traveling cars waited until the lead car lead our cars across the way.  Of course, I was not able to stay up with them so he headed back toward me with the east travelers.  Needless to say, I had to move off of the road and let them by as they were not going to give me an inch.  Once they passed, I hustled to cover the ground so that I would not be caught again until I was on normal two lane traffic.

I Pulled Over for Oncoming Traffic. Some of These
Cars and Trucks Gave me No Room
The rest of the ride was strange.  I would go a few miles with absolutely no cars passing from behind and then, suddenly, having about 30 cars fly by.  That was a bit scary as those cars were jockeying for placement and trying to pass each other as they were let through the road construction stop.  I was a little worried that some of those cars might try to pass on the shoulder.

One cool thing that happened was at mile marker sign 169.  I had stopped to fill up the last bottle of water I had.  I had my camelbak on and had poured some of it over my head because of the extreme heat that was starting to get to me.  As I turned back to my bicycle to get ready to leave, I saw another group of cars coming by. One of the cars just happened to be a Google car.  I waved but did not have time to take a picture of it. I wonder when the pictures from that car will finally be uploaded to Google Maps?

I only had about 17 miles to go but was feeling the effects of a lack of hydration and enough calories.  I have to admit that I was feeling a little nauseous but mostly I was mad at my myself for not preparing correctly.  I knew I would make it into Roswell but I also knew that I was not getting there feeling good either.

Just Outside of Roswell and I Finally
Start Seeing Some Hills. This is a
Long Downhill Stretch.
The last 10 miles was 10 of the most difficult miles I had ever ridden on the flatlands.  I was out of water by now and was just surviving the ride.  I could not wait until I got to my daughter's house.  They have a swimming pool and I knew that I would jump into it as soon as I got there.  Even though it was only 10 miles, it seemed like an eternity.  When I finally got there, I took that dip in the pool, drank a lot of water and Gatorade and made a mental note to never make the mistakes I made today again.

My Youngest Granddaughter, Bailey. We
Were at an Alien Store. It was pretty Cool.

 Day 3 will take me into the mountains. It will be cooler and much more scenic.  I am looking forward to it but I have to make sure to not make the same mistakes I made on day 2 in regards to drinking and eating.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Tour Across Southern New Mexico Day 1 - Lubbock, Texas to Tatum, New Mexico

I recently returned from one of the most fun things I have ever done on my bicycle.  I took a 7 day, 503 mile tour from Lubbock, Texas to Las Cruces, New Mexico and then back up to Cloudcroft, New Mexico.  It traveled through the flat, hot plains of West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico, climbed up into the mountains of Central Southern New Mexico, across the White Sands Missile Range to the hot and hilly(yes hilly) Las Cruces and then back across the missile range until I climbed to the almost 9000 foot elevation town of Cloudcroft.  I experienced temperatures well above 100 degrees only to endure 32 degree wind chills as I descended from the mountains back down onto the desert floor. I saw a rattlesnake up close on day 2 and on day 3 had a close encounter with a beautiful deer.  I even encountered the Google Car. This tour had it all.

I am going to take you day by day through my tour and provide a few pictures. If you want to experience a really cool place to ride, give New Mexico a chance. I think you will enjoy it.

Day 1 - Lubbock, Texas to Tatum, New Mexico - 103 miles

The hardest moment on an entire multi-day tour is the beginning, that moment when you actually take off. The doubts about completing the ride successfully or having equipment failure that cuts it short can be a bit unnerving, but once you take off, it is all okay.  The photo above is just before I left and I must admit that I was having those doubts right then.  Once I left, I was focused on making the 103 mile trip to Tatum, New Mexico.

In a couple of days I would be riding up in the cool air of the Lincoln National Forest near Ruidoso, but day 1 is all about riding the long, flat, hot road to Tatum, New Mexico.  In West Texas, towns are set out about 30 miles apart from each other.  That makes for a logistical advantage though because you do not have to carry a lot of water that will weigh down your trailer since you can stop and fill up on new water and Gatorade at convenience stores every 30 miles.

The scenery does not change much out here.  Take a picture and then take another one 50 miles later and you probably won't be able to tell a lot of difference. The pictures below were taken about 35 miles apart. Some people may think that a ride like the one I was on on day one would be exceedingly boring, but I found it to be a lot of fun. This was the only day of the entire tour that was over 100 miles and I love challenges. The temperature climbed up over 100 degrees and that was going to make riding 100 miles even more challenging.  I had never rode 100 miles hauling a trailer that weighed over 40 pounds and I could really feel it, so that maybe the challenge even more daunting.  I grew to love it.
You see lots of fields just like this one on the road to Tatum, New Mexico

At least this field has crops in it.
Yes, it was hot as I rode into Lea County, New Mexico just a few miles from Tatum

I tried to ride a 2 day tour to Roswell back in March by going to Tatum on day 1 and then to Roswell on day 2.  I only got to Plains, Texas on day 1 and had to stop.  I went a different route than the one I did today and it made the trip to Plains about 90 miles.  That meant I had to do Roswell on day 2 and that would be a 100 mile day.  I did not make it. I had to get my daughter to come get me from Roswell at Caprock, which is about 40 miles from Roswell.  That is why I was so excited to blow through Plains rather easily and then make the 30 mile trip to Tatum from there with very little extra effort.

There aren't a lot of places to stay in Tatum.  I stayed at the Sands Hotel. Luckily, the room I got had just been redone.  It was nice to finish day 1 and have some time to rest up and get ready for the stage that I was not able to finish back in March.  Come back later when I post day 2, which, surprisingly, was one of the most difficult days I ever had on a bicycle.