Today was a great day for me, but for all 10 of the guys, it was their worse day of the ride. Ed and I got an early start on a lovely little country road that wound through pecan groves and ranch houses and delivered us to Mesilla, a little Spanish village with a bustling market square that, unfortunately, was not open at 8 AM (go figure).
Following Mesilla were miles and miles of pecan orchards. Catching up to Neal, we rode with him for a while, and he told us of a Spanish friend of his who told him that many of the larger orchards in the area are stilled owned by the families of former Spanish Conquistadors. That was totally believable, as some of them were very well groomed.
Neal dropped back, and Ed and I found ourselves at a little country market where we bought soft drinks and snacks and took a break. And I had to take a few minutes to make phone calls to my insurance company and the company that is doing the restoration on my house to get things moving on the repairs. A good friend has been checking on it, and had reported to me that mold was growing in the house, because it is not completely dried out. So while I had cell phone service, I had to make calls.
Well, that took over an hour, so Ed rode on without me. I hit the road again by myself, which is just fine. I put an earbud in my ear and listened to music as I pedaled on. About a half hour into my ride, Ken, Eric, Erwin and Tom C, who had stopped for a one hour coffee break, caught up to me–moving at high speed. I hung with them for a few minutes, but as soon as they saw a place to pull over (a post office), they were ready for a break, and I had just had a long one, so I kept riding. About 40 minutes later, they caught up to me again, just at the point where the route makes a turn to enter Texas. Again, they stopped, and I went on alone. I never saw them or anyone else from the group for the rest of my ride.
After entering Texas, the route turned onto a walking/bike path that parallels the Rio Grande–a path that looked like it hadn’t been used in years, though I could see wheel prints of about 5 bikes that had recently passed over it–probably the guys in front of me. The path had high weeds growing on both sides, a lot of plant litter in the path, and occasionally, there were puddles of standing water covering it completely, with no way to get around them. My last flat tire happened on a path like this one, and I wasn’t enjoying riding through puddles of water where there could be tire hazards concealed by the dirt on the bottom.
After about 6 miles of worrying about getting a flat, I came to the only road that crossed the path. Checking my map, I found a parallel road a couple of blocks north that would avoid another 6 miles of puddles and plant litter. Apparently, all of the guys continued on the path, and that is where our routes diverged. Up ahead, the puddles turned into mud puddles, and at least a couple of the guys fell over in the mud. The tires and fenders of a few of the bikes were so bound up in mud, that they wouldn’t turn. One guy had to completely unload his bike and remove his fenders to get the mud out of them.
In the mean time, I was happily moving down a nicely paved road with a wide smooth shoulder on my way to the Quality Inn east of the airport in El Paso.
The road into town ran right along the Mexico border for a few miles, and I felt like I was in Mexico. A couple of times, I stopped to verify my location on the map, and when I asked locals for location assistance, none of them spoke English.
I learned that the Soviet looking industrial complex that for 13 months I thought was on the Juarez side of the border, is actually on the US side.
After about 10 miles of feeling like I was in Mexico, I re emerged into normal civilization. I was now on a busy street with no bike lane of any kind, and cars moving about 50 miles per hour. Scarey, but I kept my eye on my rear view mirror and held my ground.
I passed through the UTEP campus, stopped at Crazy Cat Bikes to look for a new skull cap, passed the really cool street sign below, and rode through a really nice downtown area. I mean, it was really nice–with an arts district and cool public art installations that I didn’t have time to stop and look at. And I wondered how I spent 13 months in El Paso and no one ever took me downtown to see any of the sights there.
I was about 43 miles into a 63 mile day, so I had to keep moving. I had a date to meet up with MAJ Rivas, who worked for me when I was stationed at Fort Bliss. When I arrived at the hotel, the 4 guys who were passing me earlier had not arrived yet. The guys who had arrived all had stories of fighting the mud and having to wash their bikes off behind the hotel. Mud? What mud? I never saw it. The 4 guys arrived about an hour later, muttering and complaining.
After hearing all the stories, I just barely had enough time to take a shower before MAJ Rivas arrived with her three adorable kids, her sister, MAJ Jones, and MAJ Jones two beautiful daughters.
MAJ Rivas had made me a caramel cake to share with the guys, and it was super delicious. I got to meet and love on her new baby girl, Nia, and see Jonathan, who was started crawling, back we worked together, but is now a big boy. And David is an even bigger boy. It was so much fun seeing her and the kids, and talking about how our lives have changed since we worked together back in 2012 and 2013.
The kids and I were drooling over that cake, so we knocked on 3 doors–looking for some of the guys to help eat it, but they must have all been on bike wash duty, so we had to break into the cake without them. Sorry guys.
And that last big piece of cake? I ate it before I went to bed. I love you MAJ Rivas! Hope to see you and MAJ Jones again someday soon. And someday, when your kids are grown, I hope we can do at least one epic adventure together.