Big news! I've made it to Texas (a big state), have entered the central time zone (meaning I really am moving east), and have my first riding partner. but wait, how did all of this come about? Well, i guess terrain might be a short answer, but I'll explain a little more about the last few days.
Leaving Las Cruces, my legs had to remember how to climb as I had my first pass in a few days. Once i remembered that going slow while climbing is normal I was fine (all of this flat has thrown off my perspective). Down the pass, I entered the White Sands Missile Range and more flat as far as i could see.
I made it to White Sands national Monument in time to be told I was too late to camp there. All they allow is backcountry camping 0.7 miles in and 14 mi up the road, but with 1.5 hrs of light left the rangers thought there was no way I'd get there before dark so wouldn't let me stay. I'd counted on this spot so was frustrated; however, they told me i could ride 20 miles to the nearest campsite then come back the next day! Yeah right. I raced into the NM to try and see a little bit of it before taking back tot he road. It really is exactly what you'd imagine: white sand dunes. i felt like I was riding through snow banks. leaving the park a bit unsatisfied (though getting my first fist-pump did put me in a better mood), I was forced to ride well into dark to find an acceptable camp just outside Alamogordo.
A cold, early morning brought me into town where i treated myself to the breakfast of pancakes and hash browns I'd been craving. then up the next pass i went, 4300 ft of climbing, but a nice grade and very enjoyable. It topped out at Cloudcroft in the Sacramento Mountains, a touristy, but cute little town. A couple told me it was 90 miles downhill to the next town. I was sceptical, but it was nearly true! I even had a great tailwind pushing me along for awhile so that i barley wanted to stop at dusk. That night i spent in a cow pasture--the only cow i saw was a young calf who spend the night pacing the fence in front of me mooing.
More flat riding a cold mornings took me towards Carlsbad Caverns National Park. A few miles short of the park entrance, i saw a cyclist riding towards me, as we got closer, he crossed the road and we stopped to chat. John is nearing the end of an around the world tour, he's from England and has been riding 2.5 years and over 35,000 miles! After talking for a hour on the roadside John asked if I wanted to camp together for the night, excited for some company and to hear more about his trip i readily agreed. John's much more particular about finding a good camp spot then i am, so I'm learning to take a little more time and have much more enjoyable sites.
The next morning john asked if I'd like to ride together for a few days, so now i have my first riding partner! it's nice to have some consistent company, especially someone who has so many stories from such an incredible journey (complete with English accent and vernacular). this also ending up being good timing as I'd been thinking it'd be nice to ride with someone for a little while and what better place then the desolation of western Texas (also good to have someone else along the Mexican boarder).
Carlsbad Caverns National Park was next to explore. Having turned down a job there a few years back, I was interested to see what I'd missed out on. The caverns are enormous! They seem to go on forever with rooms, passages, and seemingly bottomless holes all over. the stalactites and stalagmites, soda straws and popcorn were spectacular. I tired to imagine what it was like for the first explorers in this cave as they wandered through the pitch black monstrosity-I'd of been terrified! The lighting, paved walkways, and handrails make today's exploration much less mysterious, but at least you can see a lot and enjoy being 775 ft below ground.
Natural Entrance into the Caverns
From the caverns, John and I battled a headwind into Texas. Its great to have someone to trade off breaking wind! it felt good to get into Texas, but strange knowing that I'll pretty much be here for the next two months. the next day brought us into Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We went on a little hike up valley to get some great views of the mountains, walking through nice vegetation, and up to a little slot canyon. it was nice to get on my feet for a little bit and enjoy Texas' highest mountains. On our way out, we met three women just starting long rides of there own; all the cyclists are converging in the south now! then it was out of the hills and back to flat straightaways, though we are surrounded by more hills then I expected.Yup, definitely in Texas
If you're interested in reading about John's trip, his blog is http://cyclingtoaustralia.blogspot.com/2009/11/day-915-van-horn-texas.html