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 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 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.