Alaska Adventure Machine!

Alaska Adventure Machine!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting!"

At 7am I rolled northwards on Highway 185, leaving Las Cruces, NM behind. As my legs were warming up, with an easy spin, I said a quick prayer for my buddy who was going under anesthesia right then for his hernia operation. Too bad we couldn’t share some cycling together during this visit, but life’s timing was a bit off. Hopefully my visit would inspire his recovery and not depress him more with the forced layoff and rehab.

The massive pecan orchards shaded the road. In the old days these fields were planted with chilies, more appropriate for desert conditions. But a sort of false market condition was created through easy access to both irrigation and ground water pumping. These farmers were making money hand over fist with the combination of water and southwestern sunshine. In fact, often NM’s pecan production was #1 in the nation, mostly shipping the pecans to China. Georgia often tied NM’s production, but evidently the NM pecans were of higher quality and thus more desirable and profitable pound for pound. The easy access to water though was under serious threat by a lawsuit with Texas. Texas claims the extreme pumping of groundwater was actually sucking more surface water from the Rio Grande (that would have to eventually recharge the groundwater table below) than was allowed by treaty. Texas seems to have the winning argument and a looming collapse the NM pecan industry was worry-some.

I was not worried about the future of pecans as I enjoyed the tree shaded ride and coolness of the inefficiently and wastefully flooded orchards. With the cool of the morning, and this artificial air conditioning effect, I was clipping along quite nicely.

The historic Fort Sheldon came into views, a few slumping adobe walls visible. I decided to take a quick break and wheeled over to the visitors center to take a look. I was there too early to enter the grounds, the gates being locked. However, the grounds were quit lovely, being planted with a wide variety of native plants, many of them blooming. I enjoy taking a few photos before continuing northwards.

I was enjoying this quiet rural road tracing the Rio Grande. Water is life in the desert and I, like the conquistadors on the ‘Camino Real’, kept close to the river. It always surprises me how a river can carve through the arid desert and there is no further greening of the land beyond a few yards of the river. The Green River and Colorado River are the same way. Only dust, rocks and cactus beyond the river banks, weird!

My daydreaming was suddenly interrupted when three dogs sprinted out of a farm driveway in hot pursuit of me. Two of them were Great Danes and one really looked serious. I tried to accelerate but he had the jump on me and cut in front. As I yelled at him to stop, I clumsily reached behind my back for some pepper spray in my jersey pocket. As he closed within a few feet of me, snarling and barking, I somehow, quite desperately, thought to yell “Sit” to him. And it worked! He stopped and sat looking confusedly as me,  just long enough for me to stand on the pedals and make my escape. That universal command used by every dog owner had done it’s charm. Whew, I’ll remember that trick again! I also relocated the pepper spray to my front side, now clipped onto the chest sternum strap of my Camel Back pack. I was now ready for a quick draw if need be.

The pecans fields finally gave way to the chili fields near the outskirts of Hatch, NM. Hatch has a long prideful tradition of chili production. As green chilis gained popularity nationally, autumn chili stands and roadside roasters had even made their way to Denver. Now Hatch was in competition with Pueblo’s chilis, and the ‘buy local’ movement was diminishing Hatch’s distribution into Colorado and beyond. I was sure looking forward to a ‘real chili’ meal in Hatch, but I was making too much early morning progress.

I had hoped to have lunch at Sparky’s restaurant in Hatch, which is a real institution with southern NM residents. Funky decor and killer green chili dishes. Sparky’s was closed, so instead I found a non-descript small local diner to enjoy my green chili fix. Foregoing high tech goo packets, I stuffed my gut with authentic Huevos Ranchos slathered in green chili sauce. Yummy!

With all my blood supply being seemingly shunted to my digestive tract instead of my legs, I wobbly and light-headedly rode out of Hatch. I had definitely overdone my meal and the desert heat was building. Like a sweating Sumo wrestler I worked my way northwards, the Rio Grande off in the distance, laughing at me.

Finally, I reached Truth or Consequences, NM by 1pm. The town’s weird name was from a 1950’s game show, having no relevance now. “T or C” is what New Mexicans call it. The town sits in a good position on the Rio Grande and even has natural hot springs, a real draw. But I was hot already and I needed was a cold shower, pronto! I found a quaint motel, reminiscent of Route 66 architecture, and checked-in. The owner’s sleepy dog had chosen my shaded doorway to rest, not budging at all when I lifted my bike over him. He was having a real siesta.

After a cool shower, a nap and stretching session, I washed my cycling clothes in the room’s hand basin; a routine all long distance cyclist share.
 I walked down to a real local’s favorite restaurant, the Pacific Grill. It was quite busy with families and snowbird retirees. I too enjoyed my meal. Afterwards I found a mexican restaurant to buy a take-away burrito dinner, not for now, but the morning.

With the desert heat rising into the upper 80’s, I was determined to be already cycling as soon as the sun cracks the horizon in the morning (6:12am). It wasn’t possible to find any restaurant open early enough for that plan. So I had a good Plan B in place now. It had been a good day’s ride and I was already looking forward to tomorrow.

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