- Posted by rey-ride
- On March 18, 2017
- 4 Comments
Today, unfortunately, I used the pepper spray for the first time ever. On my way from Hatch to Las Cruces, New Mexico, three full-sized, angry Dobermans charged the street where I was riding. All three of them put together served as a kind of canine road block. The tiny, “travel sized” canister of pepper spray I had been carrying all these miles suddenly looked like a very silly and inadequate form of protection. Nevertheless, I armed myself and began shouting the most threatening things I could think of, like “STOP!” and “GO AWAY!” Heedless of my very authoritative commands, the dogs advanced, snarling and barking all the while.
At this point, I had dismounted from my bicycle and was using it as a makeshift barrier. The lead dog had gotten very close, and I fired a short burst in the general direction of his snarling face. Pepper spray, as I have now learned through experience, is essentially a glorified squirt gun, except instead of water it contains something slightly stronger. My aim was true, and although a strong gust of wind carried away the vast majority of my liquid ammunition, enough found its mark to make this particular canine question his original intentions. The battle may have been won, but the war was far from over, as there were two more angry Dobermans to contend with.
At this very moment, a miracle occurred. On the dusty horizon, a white pickup truck came barreling down the remote country road towards where the remaining dogs and I were attempting to resolve our differences. Something about a young man standing in the middle of the road wielding a bike pump and pepper spray while shouting expletives must have attracted their attention; so they came to investigate. Just as they were coming to a halt, the last two dogs, fearful of the large white truck, scattered and retreated to the safety of their yard. I seized this critical moment, and with an enthusiastic wave to my mystery saviours, mounted my bicycle and pedaled with an intensity that is only possible when one believes his or her life depends on it. That evening, I arrived in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where I spent the night with my good friend, Heather Lam.
It was a crazy day in more ways than one. I departed from Las Cruces early this morning with the intention of making it to El Paso. As fate would have it, about 13 miles outside the city limits, I discovered a very deep pothole and pinch flatted both of my tires. This was an unfortunate setback, but I didn’t think it could deter me for long. I was carrying three spare tubes, and set to work replacing the front one. With little difficulty, the front tire was aired up and ready to go, and I set to work upon the rear. This is when I had my first encounter with a lovely indigenous southwest plant known as Goat’s Head.
Goat’s Head are thorns that are usually very small and prevalent in certain regions of the arid Southwest. Despite a thorough inspection of the inside of my tire, before installing the new tube, a small thorn remained hidden along the inside of the rim and punctured the new tube as it was inflated. I had one remaining spare tube and I diligently searched the inside of my tire for Goat’s Head. When my search concluded I installed my last tube and began to inflate it. Just as I thought I was in the clear, I heard the sickening sound of air beginning to leave the tire. I sat there in contemplation, considering the unfortunate circumstances of my new reality. I was in the middle of nowhere with a very flat rear tire, out of patience, and spare tubes. The closest bike shop was in Las Cruces, and with the amount of time that had passed, I wasn’t going to make it to El Paso before nightfall. My friend Heather still had work for another several hours, and I needed to get to the bike shop before it closed. Out of desperation, I called a tow truck.
It wasn’t long before it arrived and I was confronted with a very amused driver. His colleagues had failed to inform him that he was picking up a cyclist along with his bicycle, and after taking in the situation he laughed heartily. Then he laughed again. Then he laughed some more. After we had strapped down my tiny bicycle in the huge bed of his tow truck, he had me climb up and pose next to it. A long photo shoot ensured that he would never forget this moment. After that, we drove the short thirteen miles back to Las Cruces and he dropped me off at a bike shop. There I purchased some heavily insulated, puncture-resistant tubes, and had them installed. I left the shop feeling confident and ready for whatever challenges tomorrow had to offer, and I stayed another night with my friend Heather.
Today was my second attempt to ride to El Paso, and it proved far more successful than the first. I made great time riding along a frontage road that paralleled Interstate 10, and in a few short hours, I arrived within the city limits. In El Paso, I stayed with the aunt and uncle of my friend Rey Mena. Their names are Miguel and Mely, and they are some of the kindest people I have been fortunate enough to meet on this trip. I officially crossed state lines from New Mexico into west Texas today, so to celebrate my arrival into some of the most prominent Cattle Country in all of America, Miguel and Mely took me out to get steak burgers. At the end of a very satisfying dinner, they gave me a tour of El Paso. It was fascinating for me to see where the city lights of El Paso and U.S. sovereignty ended, and where those of Ciudad Juarez and Mexico began. I also learned that El Paso has been voted the safest city in the United States now two years in a row.
As my tour of El Paso was coming to a close, the exhaustion of the day hit me all at once: it must have been obvious because at the end of the evening Miguel and Mely graciously offered to host me for another night so that I could rest.
Both Mely and Miguel have fascinating life stories. Mely, as a young child, came to the United States from Cuba, through a program known as Operation Peter Pan. From the years 1960-1962, nearly 14,000 Cuban minors were flown into Miami. They were sent by their parents who feared for their safety in Cuba.
Miguel is the eldest of nine children. Born in Juarez, Mexico, he left his home at seventeen to become a Metallurgical Engineer at the University of Mexico City.
In the morning, Miguel drove me up to a scenic overlook known as Trans Mountain. From there I was able to see where the borders of Texas, Mexico, and New Mexico all meet.
Later on that day, I accompanied Miguel and Mely to a family reunion where I met a number of Miguel’s nine siblings, along with their children and grandchildren. Miguel has a wonderful family, and I enjoyed spending time with them.
After a day off the bike, I was well-rested and perhaps a little too well-fed. I got an early start after Mely made me a fantastic breakfast and some sandwiches for the road. I was a little turned around using my paper maps to leave the city limits of El Paso, but being lost isn’t something that bothers me anymore. Fifty miles later I arrived in Fort Hancock, where I spent the night in a motel.
Today started off on a high note when I stopped at Angie’s Diner and consumed the best chicken fried steak I have ever had. During my meal, I met two army soldiers. They were stationed on a base in Georgia, but had driven to West Texas to pick up a truck they had recently purchased. We compared notes and realized that they would be passing through the same town later in the evening that I intended to ride to that day. After we exchanged contact information, they generously offered to bring me dinner for that evening.
With the exception of a slight headwind, and having to wait several minutes as a herd of cows crossed the street, my ride to Sierra Blanca, Texas, was effortless. I made great time to my end destination, which was a city park. As I was making preparations to sleep on a picnic table, I noticed a young child rifling through my bike bags. I would later learn that his name was Jackson and he had just turned eight years old. Jackson had noticed that I had several Snickers bars sticking out of my Ortlieb duffle bag, and that had been reason enough to warrant a thorough search of all my belongings. After I had shared some of my food he asked me what I was doing riding a bicycle and carrying so many Snickers bars. I explained that I was currently riding my bike across the United States. He told me that sounded boring, and with nothing else in common besides a mutual love of Snickers bars, we went our separate ways. Shortly after that, my new friends arrived with a much-appreciated evening meal. Nothing ends a long day of riding better than a hot meal. As the day was coming to a close, I met another touring cyclist camping in the same park. We made plans to ride the next several days together.