Alaska Adventure Machine!

Alaska Adventure Machine!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Pedaling the "Camino Real de Tierra Adentro"

Arriving late morning in El Paso, the bus pulled into the station. A quick glance about showed it was fairly quiet, maybe a dozen folks waiting, and much cleaner and safer perhaps than the Denver bus station. No vagrants loitering about. I quickly reassembled my bike and tossed the cardboard box into a nearby dumpster.
I was ready to follow the “Camino Real de Tierra Adentro” (Spanish for Royal Road to the Interior Land) route north. This was originally a 1,600 miles trade route from Mexico City  to San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico. The Spanish conquistadors (1511) preceded the European pilgrims (1620) into North America by more than 109 years! A fact overlooked in our northern european-centric migration myth building. With the current Trump “Build the Wall” mania and immigration debates, a simple look at our nation’s map will bear out the far earlier explorations and settlement from the southern direction. Spanish words naming our states: California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Montana, Florida. Major cities named in Spanish: Los Angeles, San Bernadino, San Clemente, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Pueblo, El Paso, Amarillo, Loredo, etc. Spanish and Mexican heritage is the foundation story of much the of the western United States, with strong connections continuing today.

Entering the heavy traffic on South Mesa Street, I biked with my guard up, not sure how bike-aware they might be. It took about 30 minutes to gain my way out of the heavy, seemingly rollerball, traffic of the inner city. I felt some relief as I worked northwards into more industrial areas and the start of agricultural fields. Here were wide highway shoulders, tho often gravelly from vehicles making the many turns on and off the highway from the graveled business driveways. The riding certainly wasn’t postcard worthy, but it felt good to be finally pedaling on my journey.

The distance from El Paso, TX to my friends home in northern Las Cruces, NM was 49 miles. A good Day 1 intro for the muscles and butt. I’d be there mid-afternoon and already the temperature was in the low 80’s. My inner-thermostat was still calibrated for Colorado snows, and I really felt the heat. A kind landscape worker refilled my water bottle from his garden hose as I slathered on more suntan lotion. I was looking forward to some A/C soon! I crossed the Texas-New Mexico border and felt the joy of quick progress.

At the southern end of Las Cruces I pulled over at a Mom and Pop convenience store for something cool to drink. The wife didn’t speak english and got her husband to help me out at the register. Enjoying the store’s cool A/C, I lingered a bit and chatted with him. They had just been up to the Denver for the Gem and Mineral show and had an interest in rocks. He said many cyclists crossing the USA, via the southern route of Florida-California, pass by their store. They had even hosted cyclists for the night via the website, although were not currently listed on it. I would have never guessed that a tiny little shop like theirs would have a cycling connection. Travel is funny that way, often expanding one’s assumptions or even opinions of folks.

Refreshed for the last few miles through Las Cruces, I competed with the cars as there was no bike lane. Heavy road work meant detours and finally I entered the quiet rural outskirts of the northern end of town and my journey for the day was complete. I spent a pleasant evening catching up with my old high school buddy and his father, daughter and new son-in-law. His daughter’s wedding had been the impetus for my ride south from Colorado to Albuquerque last May; it was fun to continue the southern route by seeing them again, without all the wedding hoopla going on. Many stories were shared and it was a great evening with all.

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