So there it is then. I finished the trip, arriving at the border on the the 20th of October. From Silver City, where I was pleased to find a well-stocked co-op grocery, I meandered briefly among high country desert-y foothills of the Gila mountains before diving to meet the desert full on. The Chihuahua desert is huge, reaching far into Mexico and only just a fragment of its impressive expanse touches on New Mexico. Nonetheless, it felt larer than life to me. I only had a couple days in it’s austere company, but what a couple of days. Yucca plants speared the sky from soft amber grasses, and at the edges in every direction were clumps of bold and bald desert mountains, of the kind that stand so isolated from one another, separated by the flat reaches of desert in between, that one asks how they even got there. One of the preominant adaptations of desert plants made themselves known to me more personally: thorns are everywhere there, and in the last couple of days of riding, everything that was supposed to hold air no longer seemed capable of such.

I spent the first night out at Separ, NM. Where, of course you should ask, is Separ NM? It’s barely a blip on the radar for the people who pass it on busy I-10, holding nothing more than a gift shop (a strangely well-stocked gift shop full of kitchy ‘Mexican Imports!’ and fireworks). For me it was a veritable oasis, in a rather literal sense because I could stock up my water bottles there. I had a slower day getting out of Silver City, though, and so I stayed in the gift-shop parking lot with permission of the manager. Oh, what a sad night that was. I-10 carries an incredible amount of truck traffic all hours of the night, and likewise the train tracks paralleling the interstate carrying a large amount of train traffic, all of which blasted warning whistles at the road crossing right there next to the parking lot. The parking lot itself was flooded by ghastly orange halogen street lights and to avoid these, I went to bed down in the ‘Pet Area’. I found a clean-ish area, spread out my well-worn plastic groundsheet, and laid down on Big Fluffy, my tough-as-nails and totally dependable sleeping pad (which is inflatable – have I mentioned that?). And 10 minutes later it was totally flat. Because of the cacophanous freeway next door, I couldn’t locate the leak, and slept pressed into the hard parking lot of the pet area. The next area I was tired, my hip bones were bruised, and I was reassured once again that a person can put up with anything for a short period of time. Under my sleeping pad I found the culprit – a goathead, which is a woody little ball with hard, strong thorns protruding in a pattern reminiscent of a goat’s head.

In Silver City I got my first flat of the trip. Because it was a tear in the valve stem of the tube, I gleefully maintained my love of the tires I’m riding, which amazingly had no puncture flats or blowouts and in fact I hadn’t yet even added air to either tire. I replaced the tube and went on my merry, but somewhere between Sliver City and Separ the thorns struck their first blow, and a tire went flat. I had trouble with that tire the rest of the day, and the next day I got another flat. Ah well, the tires did alright most of the trip, losing integerity only in the true desert. And it’s fitting in a way that everything should fall apart at the very end of things.

After Separ I left the dirt for good. The remainder of the route follows paved, narrow roads cutting long straight lines through the desert. Abundant on these roads where huge crickets (grasshoppers? cicadas?). Their bodies were the size of a large thumb and they had beady eyes like a rabbit’s. It seemed to be the season for them, and they were largely engaged in the romantic activity of feasting on the bodies of other crickets, as many as 7 clustered around a car-flattened corpse. After such dates, the crickets seemed to engage in a protracted and unspirited coitus, little stacks of them all over the road. I tried my best not to run them over but it was quite difficult, and every now and then one would fall under my tire and crunch like a potato chip (definitely the airy crunch of a potato chip, not the earthy crunch of a corn chip). They were my amusing companions for miles and days of riding.

I road south from Separ to Hachita, and then, rather than continue another 50 miles south into the bootheel of New Mexico to Antelope Wells (the official terminus of the route), I turned east. I rode another 50 miles east to Columbus, New Mexico, a small and sleepy little border town. Along all those miles of riding, I did see an increible amount of border patrol traffic, and while I wa expecting them to leap out of their trucks and frisk me and demand my proof of citizenship in some dramatic display of federal power, no such thing happened. In fact, they were incredibly polite, swerving way over to the other side of the road to pass me, and only stopping once, but that was to make sure I was okay when I stopped to eat a sandwhich on the side of the road. Otherwise, there is nothing going on down at the border. People have been saying to me for months not to go anywhere near the border, that I’ll get killed by some crazed Mexicans and they’ll stuff my corpse with drugs and use it for trafficking or something. But I hardly saw anyone at all. It was beautiful , quiet, and empty.

I stayed my last night out in Columbus at Poncho Villa State Park (the site of the only foreign invasion ever to occur on American soil), and then rode north up to Deming to catch the train. I dropped Lolita off to be shipped home, and it was like losing a talisman. I stripped her bare of bags and bottles, hung them all over myself, and struggled from one side of Deming to other in search of the elusive Amtrak platform (taking the train appears to be unpopular in Deming, since everyone I asked said ‘Train? Train don’t stop in Deming.’).

I took the train through the night to San Diego, where I am now visiting a very dear friend and my goats. I head back to Seattle in a couple days. People ask if I am sad, or if I am happy, to be done. It is, of course, complicated. I am sad to leave the freedom of all those wide open spaces behind. I am sad to no longer carry the essence of my home in my mind through all those miles of riding, stopping every night to manifest it on the frame of what I know: how to pitch the tarp, what to cook, and so on. I will miss the vast and impenetrable solitude that was my troublesome companion for these couple months. I will miss the unmistakable sense of purpose that has governed my life on the trip. But I am happy to go home and see loved ones. I am happy to cuddle my goats, their rotund little bodies like beached whales in my arms. I am happy indeed to have electricity and running water at my disposal, a roof over my head, and to be very unconcerned about which the way the wind is blowing and how hard. In only hours, I travelled by train across terrain that would have taken me days on my bicycle, and when I fly home I’ll cover in even fewer hours what would take me months. I am happily astonished by this fact of modern mobility.

I’ll post once more after I get back to Seattle with some undoubtedly good afterthoughts, and I’ll put some gear reviews up for those who are curious. Check back for these. In the meantime, here are a few pictures. Unfortunately I dropped my camera up in El Malpais National Monument and it was semi-broke for a bit until it completley broke right at th end, so I don’t have as many pictures of the desert as I would have liked. Again, there’s that collapse of equipment showing up.

Desert sunset and ocotillo plant.

Columbus New Mexico.

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