The Breen Machine

The Breen Machine
CyclOcar at the Guadalupe Desert Salt Flats, Texas nearly 2,000 miles into it's 30,000 mile journey. Pedal Power = Carbon Neutral Living

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


The final leg to Los Angeles is being postponed until we have overcome some technical difficulties which might take a few months to resolve. In the meantime here is an image of the Cyclocar on a deserted street in little border town of Palomas, Mexico.

Please keep his spirits up and send him your encouragement to complete the adventure soon. At the moment we are just trying to get him home for Christmas.

Gerry is now home and well with a story to tell.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Goodbye Columbus - well not quite.

A cactus 'caught' in the powerful patrol vehicle search lights

Well this morning I was awoken at the pre-arranged time of 6am. But I don't remember it well as I must have been blotto. Now when I smelled freshly grilled bacon wafting up the stairs it beckoning me to head off downstairs in haste. I wanted to get away early before the wind picked up. It is flat calm and after delicious eggs sunny side up, hash browns etc. I went off to load the machine up only to discover two flat front tyres!

Addison told me that any locals who fancy cycling have Kevlar reinforced tyres due to the prickly goatheads that are everywhere (they are the things that peppered my ExPed downmat with holes so it seems like I will have to sort out a solution before I can hit the road.

On the positive side I cannot think of anywhere I would be delayed. Martha's place is a rare feature in the modern fast paced USA. In fact I think you could model other B & B's on this example.

You know what I mean - a place where if there is no one around in the night you help yourself to a Coke etc and ask them to add it to the bill - or maybe because they trust people?

Last night was a blast!

A friend of Addison is the local police patrol officer (Officer Smith) and when he popped in to Martha's around 7pm I just happened to be looking at a picture of the machine being propped up by a Bud Light so I asked him if technically it was illegal. I think he thought me a bit zany. He bounced back with I cannot prove where it was and the can looked like it hadn't been opened. I told him that it had in fact sprung a leak so I had to finish the repairs and drink it asap! I think he thought I was testing him on the fringes of the law but when he realised it was a joke we hit it off real well and ended up going out for a real Mexican dinner.

I then got to go out on 7pm - Midnight patrol. These exciting few hours not only involved looking carefully into the desert for signs of unusual activity (this is the main Cocaine crossing point) but also the more mundane actions of pulling over speeding motorists etc. I love the radar they have where you can be travelling towards or going away from traffic and the dashboard LED still showed the speed of the other vehicle. I had to remember that Officer Smith is not only working in an environment whereby firearms are part of peoples lives but we were only 3 miles from another extremely dangerous city - Palomas.

The first vehicle 'we' stopped turned out to be three ladies rushing to get to the bathroom and the other was for reasons I was not privy to. Suffice to say that as I was wearing my lined aviator jacket I felt that I looked like an undercover cop! Having said that, Officer Smith was wearing jeans and a jacket not dissimilar to mine.

He introduced me the the customs and immigration control officers down at the US/Mexico entry point and I got to talk about how the situation had been in the previous few days.

There had been the discovery of a mass open grave containing the bodies of 18 people. In the previous weeks they had discovered a warehouse containing over 40! Seemed like not too much had been happening by their expressions! They also said that any US nationals that are injured are brought to the border in rickity 'ambulances' as they have very few facilities on that side of the border.

I also noticed that in addition to the large numbers of Border Patrol vehicles a small number of military ones so I hope for their sakes it doesn't spill over into Columbus.

We spent over 4 hours moving around his patch looking at life in a very different way and I didn't get bored for one second. I learned heaps including how to approach a suspect vehicle and even which side to approach from. I learned this not from some TV show but for real. This is where no TV program can ever convey the reality of actually feeling the adrenaline flow in a very non routine profession.

I want to finish this blog by thanking Police Officer Smith for taking the time to show me his area of operation and allowing me to 'experience' a small glimpse into his life. We have swapped details and I expect him to show up in my patch in the not to distant future where I will try to arrange for him to have a much more laid back time!

I am waiting to see if the wind picks up as forecast and now having had 4 punctures with these tiny little goatheads just around the B & B!

I have decided to cross the border with machine into Palomar. Addison has just told me that per capita the town is THE most dangerous in the world. Ironically there is a statue of the US General John Pershing shaking hands with Pancho Villa in the square. On this side they seem more interested in Pancho Villa than Pershing!

I am leaving Addison with my room paid, my computer and all things of value in his safekeeping. I will take only the essentials and will be intrigued to see if the reaction to the machine breaks any ice and hostility that may exist.

Bye for now and love to all my family and friends.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Columbus, New Mexico

The Rio Grande - a trickle before the rains.

I think John was very worried about our relationship whilst I remained in El Paso. Although it sounds like 'Cloak & Dagger' stuff I believe from my aviation experience it is best to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

I sat looking at the GPS and map of New Mexico for some time but couldn't get the GPS to work again before I realised that during a night battery change the Micro Card had sprung out and I had lost all my USA maps.

The solution to getting away and drawing the least attention was to follow the desert Mexico/New Mexico Border road where the traffic is very sparse. In addition it is probably the most patrolled road in the world. I left El Paso at 8am and all was going well until some 25 miles from El Paso. The wind got up to around 40 mph and the tumbleweed started to flow. It is very erie to see them tumbling along the streets and between building like some motorised silent beings with minds of their own.

Eventually a severe dust storm started and and I could hardly see 50 yards in front of me.
That's when you really get concerned about collisions.

View from my cockpit

That day would see me being so thankful that I wasn't on a bicycle on several occasions. I was able to close the side doors and at least manage to continue without dust and sand entering nearly all of my orifices!

The map was virtually useless and despite stopping regularly to ask directions I was sent the wrong way most of the time.

Eventually I crossed the road against the oncoming traffic and asked a delightful lady who's name is Tommie if she knew the way. She kindly called her husband on her cellphone and I was on my way again until I took a wrong turning and ended up at a closed border crossing.

Tommie a very photogenic Lady

The lone Border Control Officer kindly helped me recover my tracks and I took the opportunity of making him feel at ease enough to get some more information about the current state of affairs.

I then said my goodbyes and had my second puncture of the day in the same wheel. I started to put a new inner tube into the tyre when a gust picked up the machine and blew it over on it's side. I found the best solution was to place it directly into wind and keep it level by using a full tall can of Bud-Light! I ran the risk of being arrested as it wasn't in a paper bag but then thought "hey let's live on the edge"!

I was on my way again and with the voice of the Border Guard still in my ears warning me that there were no facilities, houses etc for the next 60 miles I headed off into an increasing wind. I lost count of the number of patrol units that frequented the area.

I was making an average speed of 7mph into an increasingly strong cold wind and I was so glad once again to be sort of snug and warm inside my 'car'.

I had a distinct advantage in spotting the 'hidden' border units and decided to stop and have a chat with one of them who was amongst the bushes.


Officer Alan X looked wary at first but I then found out that he already expected me along that route and seemed somewhat chuffed that I bothered to single him out for a chat!

How naive of me to think that they did not know I was coming! They know when a rat moves in this area, which by coincidence was what I saw crossing a few yards from the border. By the way it was heading into the USA and there is probably a bad omen there!

Alan explained that I had passed the hill of the cross which is where those on foot walk across as there are no fences. The area I was now in was the heavily fenced one where the big vehicles ram their way through in order to bring the drugs in. I noticed that although we talked about everything from football (soccer) to his military time in Iraq and Afghanistan he was constantly monitoring the surrounding area.

It was now 7pm and he informed me that between this time and midnight was the most dangerous period. He certainly sees action on a regular basis but the long hours of boredom must eventually allow people to drop their guard.

I said goodbye and headed off again but progress dropped to only 5mph and I was starting to get low on water. I had been pedaling for more than 11 hours and I eventually felt I couldn't go further. A patrol 4 x 4 came up alongside and the officers supplied me with Gatorade and water - thankyou both very much. However they shot me down when they told me that there was nothing in the next town some 30 miles away.

What no motel? No convenience store? "Well maybe, but it will be closed by the time you get there".

It just didn't seem to get closer and as I came over the last hill it sat elusively close for the next 5 hours.

By the time I struggled into the town I had been cycling for 17 hours! A new personal record which I never want to repeat ever again. I saw a little hotel but despite ringing the night bell and the little dog barking inside the entrance no one came to my rescue. I was now so cold that I was physically shaking. As I was looking for somewhere to lay out my three sleeping bags I spotted a Hacienda on the other side of the road. Fortunately they were open and I rushed to the room drew a bath of hot water and enjoyed the pain of getting in.

I awoke at 7.30 and decided to search out a breakfast spot in a one horse town. I ended up at the hotel from the night before and was met by Addison who made me feel so welcome that I had made up my mind almost straight away to stay here another day so that I could make repairs, resolve the slow puncture and generally improve fitness for a similar challenge again across the desert enroute to Phoenix, Arizona.

I asked him if he would mind telling me his story. He lost his oldest son in a surf drowning accident but his other son Addison is now tipped to be the top football player in the USA.

Addison Jnr.

Addison also worked for Hugh Heffner of Playboy fame and has therefore met many celebrities. These days he designs websites and is a Pastor at the nearby church.

Addison asked me if I knew where I was. I replied Columbus. Yes but did I know the significance? This was the place of the first invasion of the USA by José Doroteo Arango Arámbula (Pancho Villa) in 1916. It was also the first time that aircraft were used to defend the USA! Now that is something very few people know. The terrorist group first attacked at the junction of 9th and 11th street - 9/11!

Martha, Grecia, and Adderson in front of Martha's Hotel - VERY highly recommended.

I will visit the museum today and see the Curtis Jenny which was used to curtail the invasion.

It is virtually impossible to leave this afternoon as the wind is out of the NW and very strong. I plan to leave tomorrow morning and it is slightly bizzare to think that Karen is still in the UK but will be here with many days to spare before I reach Los Angeles.

Still this break means that I have managed to keep the Blog updated and also spend some time sorting out the machine such as a continuous slow puncture in the front right inner tube. A new cable insert for the rear gear changer and a temporary repair to the right door opening - brought about by me not opening it properly before trying to get in!

Still they are so friendly here and it is more like a small guesthouse then an hotel.

Bobby from Abbeyville, Louisiana

Hey guess what. Bobby who I had lost details of after I misplaced my voice recorder has just made contact!
Thanks Bobby & hope our paths cross again one day. We have experienced similar life threatening things albeit in an opposite sense.

Will keep in touch.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Last Night

Tonight Keith, Maria and I went out for a fabulous Mexican meal in El Paso. We visited El Nuevo Ciro's on Mesa.

Fernando and his family are from Juarez. They have been involved in the business for many, many years and I can see that Fernando loves his trade.


I think it therefore important for any visitor to El Paso who loves authentic high quality to try to visit him. I had a Combo which was made up of Tortillas to start then soup, salad and main course which was for me to try several dishes at once.

Kieth enjoys his beef

I wish he had a restaurant in Lagos!

Afterwards they took me up Scenic drive along the side of the Franklin Mountain where the views over El Paso and Juarez were absolutely fantastic.

This building is lit like a Christmas Tree.

Goodbye El Paso & Juarez - I hope that one day the fear has gone from your lives.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I am sitting in my motel room desperate to hit the road to New Mexico. I am also somewhat excited by the idea of being able to interview someone who knows exactly how it all developed into the current situation.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Where do I begin....

Great side view of Dwayne with a drilling rig in the background

The Harley - just a few of Dwayne's toys

My Favourite was his Colt 45

I liked Dwayne's large gun collection including a set of beautiful Deringers still in their original case

I am sorry but I am coming to the conclusion that to continue the blog each day is becoming near impossible. There is so much to write about and to try to get online affects my progress.
I think it best to summarise the past few days of what appears to me to be a surreal experience.

The night before I left Kermit a biker named Jerry heard of what I was attempting and decided that he ought to hold me in prayer for what I was about to attempt. He is a pastor who uses his bike as a tool to deliver the word of God to people. Thanks very much Ray as he must have heard your prayer.

Thank you Ray

Thank you Jerry for offering to pay for a motel for the night. He couldn't understand that I wanted to camp outside and not because I was broke!

I left Kermit with Dwayne in the early hours of Sunday morning after having a fine breakfast from the girls at the Huddle House.

We made our way to an oil field that Dwayne and his team had prepared for production. I was astounded that the pressure of the oil at the surface registered 2,200 psi on the gauge. I felt quite priviledged to be allowed to stand there - but you know what they say 'it's not how much you know but ..........'

Dwayne & I

The well was over 8,500 feet down according to a colleague of Dwayne Robert who is a pumpman and was by chance in the ghost town of Orla when I arrived.


The General Store closed when the oil business died in the 80's

I said my goodbyes and headed off into the desert for what was going to be a 200 mile journey over the Guadalupe Mountains at over 5,700 feet. As the morning wore on I started to experience 30 mph headwinds and combined with a gradual climb my speed reduced to only 5mph. During one of my rest stops I realised that my photo transfer cable had been left at Dwayne's house. I tried to text him as my camera memory card was full. At one point I even climbed up a hill by the side of the road in order to get a weak signal on my phone but eventually got a message to Dwayne and he responded saying that he would drive out to bring it and also supply me with more provisions as my expected journey time was going to increase by more than 300%. Fortunately while I was waiting a chap called Bobby drove up to me in his huge RV and asked if I needed help.


He owns an oil business and was one of the very few vehicles that I had seen during the journey to that point. It turns out also that he had colon cancer and we got to talking about this aspect of the illness. He also gave me a refreshing cool Dr Pepper which was the best thing I have tasted in the circumstances.

There is plenty of real estate for sale in the desert!
Any takers as I am the agent!

Eventually Dwayne arrived and brought me plenty of chocolate bars (candy) and the cable and he also said he would keep Karen informed of my progress. For some reasong Verizon who are my service providers had blocked international calls.
I do hope that Bobby reads this as I unfortunately lost my voice recorder along with his contact details.
I then headed off but the wind grew ever stronger and I was only managing 2-3mph!

As if I needed warning!

I ended up camping by the side of the Carlsbad to El Paso road and my GPS showed that my Cyclocar was in Texas and I was in New Mexico. I also noticed a sign at the side of the road indicating that I was also on Mountain Time so in effect I had to put my watch back one hour.
I then headed off on the more tortuous climb up to the pass next to El Capitan but the wind was now 45 mph and was almost blowing me off the road. I met several people who gave me more water and snacks so when I eventually arrived at the top I was relieved to see the Ranger Station and I felt like I was back in civilisation. Unfortunately they had no facilities but they did have a tuck box and I once again filled up with candy and an apple and banana from one of the tourists.

I then felt I was ready for the next section but was so relieved to find that it soon became a fabulous downhill run to the salt flats where Dwayne had told the Salt Flat Cafe that I would be arriving very late. The downhill section saw me achieve long steady speeds of 40 mph plus. Such a wonderful relief after the trudge on the upside. The relief I felt at arriving at Mrs Richardson's Salt Flat Cafe was palpable.

Unfortunately she was closed but Dwayne had passed on the message to knock on her door and she would give me sustenance. I felt dejected as there was no reply but the sound of a dog barking in a nearby unlit house gave me hope. I then knocked on that door and hoped a gun would not be poked through the opening. A guarded figure did appear and to my relief they firstly checked who I was and then with a big smile I saw the face of Benny. He was the son of Shirley and his wife and daughter Mckenzie were visiting for Thanksgiving.
Shirley made me a lovely cooked meal in the cafe which dates back to 1929 and even had an airstrip just behind. The place is steeped in history and the artifacts and memorablia is definitely worth seeing if you are passing this way.
The evening views are spectacular with the mountains I had just clmibed in the glow of the moonlight. The salt lake looks almost like it is still filled with water as it shimmers in the glow.

They offered to put me up in the house behind but I decided to sleep under the stars and continue with my study of the Constellations. During the night I ended up getting very cold as the temperature had plunged to - 10 Centigrade. Normally I would have been OK but I discovered that my ExPed Downmat had sprung a leak and I ended up lying on the ground. In fact in the morning I discovered that it was peppered with holes and the reason is those small prickly cactus spines so I now had no way of repairing it.

In the morning I awoke early so that I could get on my way as the wind was forecast to be strong from the south west again. Shirley made me a super breakfast and a packed lunch of my favourite - boiled eggs.

Shirley & I

I said my farewells and was now well stocked up for what I thought would be the easy part. I was warned that it would not be downhill to El Paso for some 40 miles but as it was a gentle climb I took the opportunity of stopping at a beautifully restored farmhouse and calling to a chap who was sitting outside working on something. He came across to the gate and was delighted to show me around his ranch where he introduced himself as Don and explained that his sole project was building a wild bird sanctuary. He has been on the project alone for the last seven years. He is a Korean War Veteran and decided to move from Ohio to Texas in order to live his dream in solitude.


I could have spent a lot longer with him but the wind was strengthening again. I continued the climb up to over 4000 feet and eventually arrived at the summit prior to the descent into El Paso. When I reached the reststop I noticed a group of three good looking ladies watching my final slog into the car park. There seemed very excited and explained that they had been watching this strange object as it got closer from some distance away.

Two were in fact glamour models plus their assistant on their way to Atlanta for a photo shoot. They live in Hollywood and although they would not mention names, knew certain stars extremely well. They gave me cookies and a bottle of water which helped top up my reserves so a big thank you to Erica, Brittany and Terri.

Erica, Terri & Britney

I said goodbye and they told me it would soon be a downhill run. They were right as I had around 15 - 20 miles of a fast downhill bobslay run all the way to the outskirts of El Paso. I was so hungry that as I passed through the outskirts I went into a fabulous simple Mexican restaurant where they spoke no English so I tried my Portuguese mix and it worked. The meal came to $5 and was the best value I have had so far.

On the way into the town I was met by the Sheriff who wanted to know where I was going. I explained that I knew why he was asking and that I had had no problems all the way from Orlando. He seemed unconvinced and although he let me continue he must have been watching for me as he turned up outside the restaurant and this freaked out the two girls working there. I explained that it was no problem and that he was a 'friend' which I could rightly say as he had given me his number earlier and said that if I need help just to call him. I went out to speak to him and he said that his boss had given him authority to escort me to the motel some 10 miles away. I thanked him but declined his offer as it seemed a bit OTT! When I set off after my meal he appeared again but once he saw me following his advised route I think he went on his way.

I checked into the motel at close to midnight and slept like a baby with my machine padlocked in an unusual way. I took the cable around the back luggage rack and brought it through the door and then slammed the door so that it was secure. There was nothing else to secure it to nearby and I have used this method several times now.

I awoke this morning and after having a Mexican breakfast for $2 I met a down and out who was shivering after sleeping out during that cold night. I asked him where he was going and he said that he was heading to somewhere warm. He didn't look well and it turned out that he has Prostrate Cancer and cannot afford treatment. I gave him a little something although he didn't ask for anything and hoped he could get some help.

I had to go into the city in order to do some things that were a problem on the trip. First get the broken spoke fixed across the other side of town. Secondly to get my camera replaced as the battery lock was broken although it was out of date for substitution. Wallmart however waived the one month limit due to the circumstances! Thirdly to get a new voice recorder which I lost somewhere in the desert. Fourthly to get the phone that was with it!

Whilst I was heading across the town I came upon a couple with young baby and a dog. They were holding up a sign at a junction saying 'IN NEED OF WORK' I beckoned them to meet me past the junction and when Robert arrived I asked him what his predicament wass. He told me that he was made redundent in Washington State and could no longer support his family and so decided to head off towards Louisiana trying to get a job but with no success. I gave him $5 and told him to meet me at my motel at 6 pm as I could possibly help him.

I cycled across the city some 13 miles but was told they could not fix the spoke as they were too busy! Again when they realised what I was doing they fitted it in. Thanks Hunt.


When my wheel was being fixed I got talking to a chap from Juarez called Jorge and he was fascinated by the machine. His wife works for production of the largest television station in Mexico.


He called her and she asked me if I would be prepared to come over the border to appear on a show. Well Juarez as you might know is claimed to be the most dangerous city in the world even for tourists and I explained my misgivings. They told me that they would ensure my safety and so tomorrow I have to make a decision as to whether to call and agree to make the crossing. Not one person this side has said it is safe to do so and therefore I am in a slight quandry. Is this just media hype or are they really targeting anyone. I decided to sleep on it.

Young Emilio loves bicycles but wanted one of these!

When I was trying to desperately find a Verizon agent for a new phone another Robert nearly ran into me! He tried to help me locate the address but it turned out we were a little too late. Our brief time together made us realise that it would be great to meet again. Hope to see you one day in Portugal.


Robert and his family arrived in a broken down truck and told me such a sad tale that I had to believe it true. The details will of course come out in anything I write sometime later. Suffice to say that I contacted Mike who has a construction company back in Midland who said there was always work there in the oil industry. I put Robert on the phone to Mike and he agreed to help if they could get to Midland. I then put them in a room at the motel for the night as they looked somewhat worse for wear and they seemed somewhat shocked and bemused at an act of kindness like this. All I can say is that between Mike and I, we hopefully have changed someones life for the better. Many, Many thanks Mike and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

El Paso at night

I'm now in one of the safest cities in the USA but only a few miles away across the Rio Grande is what is now considered the most dangerous in the world. The Police/Federales and the drug cartels are embroiled in a war over control and power where life is so cheap that you can have someone killed for as little as $100. Protection rackets abound where just about everyone has to pay something in order to continue their way of life. This war is threatening to spill over into the USA and as if evidence was needed you can see intense border patrols including helicopters and aeroplanes well away inland from the actual border. I can hear gunfire tonight and I have been told that a SWAT team has been in this area. There is even shooting across the border and in one instance a student from Juarez was killed whilst attending the University of Texas but they deemed it too dangerous for the other students to attend his funeral in Juarez.

As I was preparing to go out for another Mexican meal I met a chap in the next but one room who was looking intently at my machine. We got to talking and he invited me to have a drink with him. His name is Daniel but I have sworn not to reveal his last name for reasons that will become obvious below. He looked like he was drowning his sorrows and I then asked him if he had a problem. He was a senior gang leader in the city and has decided to go straight in order to keep the love of his fiancee but apparently you cannot just resign from the family that he is in. It appears that once you know the secrets of the Mexican Mafia or Bloodbrothers you are in it for life. How I end up meeting people like is still a mystery to me but he befriended me and took me on a tour of the city. He then went on to explain how life here in the underworld works. Even dress colours matter. His best friend died in his arms after protecting him a a shootout and he admitted the biggest mistake in his life was ordering the killings of several people including certain family members of opposing factions. The recording that he agreed to do was from the heart and towards the end of the evening he revealed that his mother died when he was five and his father abandoned him. I believe this is one of the main reasons that he took to the streets and when he finally broke down in tears he told me that he feels that his mother would be ashamed of him.
He has invited me to a traditional Mexican Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow with his cousins, aunts and uncles.
I told him I would go providing as a first step on the road to recovery he would consider giving up alcohol. I eventually convinced him to stop and as a gesture he poured all of his stock of alcohol down the sink.


So tomorrow is an exciting yet unsure day for me and if I get time I will let you all know what happens. I am sure that as he is a senior member of the 'family' they will accept a stranger into their midst.

But remember ladies if you are looking for some kind hearted dude - Dwayne is your man!