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Keith in the USA
This week Keith rides through Alien country (Roswell, New Mexico) to Austin, Texas to visit his sister Debbie.
Totals in the USA: 1766 miles, 59520ft climbing and 127:06 hours riding
This week: 561 miles, 13004ft climbing and 40:35 hours riding
USA Day 19 Sunday November 24th
Expect the unexpected today. I’m heading to Roswell site of Aliens landing in 1947?
It’s a beautiful morning again today. Clear blue skies. Straight road ahead of me with a gentle gradient for the first 10 miles. Hills to the north look great as the low sun casts shadows across them.
I’m riding in historic Lincoln County this morning, realm of Billy the Kid. As the climb intensifies I notice an animal in front stood on its hind legs. On closer inspection its a Grey squirrel not very exciting. This steep section is up through woodland and very scenic with large birds of prey circling overhead. Lots of road kill on this road more than I’ve seen all of this journey. There’s an owl, Porcupine, Skunks and lots of small birds.
At just over the hour and the climbing’s done. It’s flat now with a cold tail-wind, so it’s head down and crack on. All is going well until a bit of a climb at 55 miles. Nothing massive, just a change of mindset and push on. As I brow the hill I pull over and check my tyres. Both a little flat. Is it the cold air I wonder. Half hour later I’m changing the inner-tube in the rear wheel. That’s sorted but the front has a slow puncture as well. I fill it full of air and ride; only 25 to go.
Not sure why the aliens picked Roswell as it’s a pretty dull place, especially on a Sunday afternoon. Not a shop within 2 miles that sells alcohol and I’m not that fussed about going that far on foot.
I stick to the hotel and fix the punctures. Another exciting evening.
USA Day 20 Monday November 25th
A good breakfast in the hotel this morning; I managed to come out with an apple, a banana and a couple of tangerines!
It’s still very cold and overcast and not a lot to look at. Vast fields on both sides, mostly cattle with the odd herd of deer.
Fresh winds make the flat roads pretty hard work. Reminding me of Holland, no escaping headwinds. The occasional bird of prey above and darting rabbits on the verges. It’s a long straight boring road. Dale and Linney would be good riding three abreast, chatting.
First time I’ve really missed them. After 40 miles I start the only climb of the day. Nothing hard just a long straight climb of fifteen miles or so. After making the top I’m looking forward to the 30 mile descent. I take a sharp right then left, no left? Once again the Garmin has taken me onto private land. The sign on the gate is pretty off-putting.
There is nothing on this property worth dying for
Ok I’ll find another route. No problem, straight head against the increased wind for 10 miles then turn left for 28. The ten against the wind is hard, I can’t wait to turn left and have the wind on my back. I decide to take a break at the junction; ham, cheese and fruit. I threw the horrid bread away.
A large petroleum lorry pulls into the layby and the driver jumps out, shakes my hand and gives me a bottle of water. He’s just interested in where I had been and going. He gives me plenty of advice as to where to eat and pray. Turns out he was very religious and worried about me. No worries he meant no harm, nice chap.
I turn left and sail home with the wind on my back and flat roads. Only an extra 3 miles.
Far better than getting shot.
USA Day 21 Tuesday November 26th
I have a quick cereal breakfast in the room this morning and am on the road at 7. I’m expecting high winds this afternoon so I need to get some miles in early.
Not a lot to look at again this morning and that’s the theme for the next couple of days. Vast flat farmlands as far as the eye can see.
A high wind’s coming over my right shoulder threatening to blow me into the road. Luckily the hard shoulder is flat and wide. After 20 miles I pass through Hobbs a pretty typical nondescript town. Turning east the wind is now directly behind me and I soon sweep over the Texas state line. Oil heads and cotton fields greet me. The road stretches out straight in front with rolling hills. I pull over after 60 miles, with a puncture in the front and time to eat. The winds really picked up now but it’s still right behind me. I’ve also broken my front pannier rack, nothing a Ty-wrap won’t hold for now.
30+ miles to go. The wind is now growing into a storm and red dust is everywhere and tumble-weed is racing me down the road. Absolutely smashing it. Whilst fixing the bike earlier I inadvertently turned off my garmin. So my stats are only from the break.
I’m averaging 24mph for 20 miles I notice. I think I can improve on that I say to myself. I put the hammer down and complete the ride in 75 minutes, 31.2 miles, average speed a great 25.3mph. Not bad for a 50kg bike and a descent of 45metres.
I consider making the most of the wind and riding another 30+ miles to GAIL. After checking my maps, turns out there are no hotels.
So I take the early day and find a motel and set about going over my bike. Everything checked and tightened, innertubes repaired and a spot of lubrication. Only the rack that I’m not 100% with. Handful of Ty-wraps wouldn’t go a miss.
I walk down to the shop to get food for tomorrow. The locals stare at me in my shorts and the fact I’m walking. There’s a petrol station near the shop so I pop in but they have no Ty-wraps. “Bingo” next door is an electrical firm. I knock on the door and enter. There’s a large woman sat behind her desk keen to help. I explain my situation, so she phones her husband, no answer. So she phones her son, he directs her over the phone into the stores with me following close behind. I could be at home. I spot what I need and ask for ten, she hands me a whole bunch. We sit and chat in her office over a cup of tea and a biscuit or two, with me explaining what I’ve done and seen.
USA Day 22 Wednesday November 27th
It’s an early start this morning as I’m expecting the worst. 105 miles, very cold and headwinds. As expected it’s a bitterly cold headwind that’s burning my face. Nothing to look at except cotton fields and oil wells, undulating ground and straight roads. Just me and my mind today. My speed’s not too bad but everything seems to be a struggle going into the wind. It’s going to be like 8 hrs of solitary confinement. Just keep pressing on. Rain clouds are gathering to my right, maybe it can get grimmer.
After 35 miles I pull over to eat, urinate and put some air in my rear wheel. Nowhere to hid from the wind just standing on the side of the road. A large pick-up comes past me and does a u-turn. A gentlemen gets out and starts questioning me on my mentality and my plans. Lovely chap offers me a lift, I refuse explaining that I’m doing fine, on schedule and loaded with food. He says I’m mad and asks how difficult is it to take the panniers off. I take one off to show him and he loads it in the back of his truck. Looks like I’m getting a lift.
Ed starts telling me about his magnesium mine in “Snyder”. They extract it by boring holes and pumping water in and washing the magnesium out. He has a 1900 acre site! Then he’s describing the pig farm his family had in the eighties. At 83 years old he loves charging around his estate on his quad bike on two wheels. The bloke’s a goldmine of information. After 30 mile he pulls over, that’s as far as we go. He helps me put the bike back together, shakes my hand and says I’ve got to go shopping 20 guests to feed at Thanksgiving tomorrow.
So with a smile on my face I push on into the wind for the last 40 mile. It finally rains, but only for the last couple of mile. I book into the motel and spread my gear out to dry. I venture down to Walmart in my shorts and the rain. Yes I’m an alien!
USA Day 23 Thursday November 28th
I had breakfast and sat waiting for it to get light enough for me to hit the road. It’s cold and raining and that’s the forecast all day. I make the break at 7:45. It’s not a big road out of town and it has a small rough hard shoulder. I have my lights on and I’m riding on the road.
I’m only just got out of the town and I’ve spotted four deer carcasses already. If the drivers are hitting them I’ll get back on the hard shoulder. Riding across a couple of small valleys this morning, up and down through the woods. I disturb a couple of feral pigs that run along with me for a second or two. A welcome break from the open fields of late. The weather is not improving.
After the woods it up with the wind turbines. I know I’m heading directly into the headwind, but it’s confirmed by the angle of the turbines. This is going to be another testing day. After 30 miles I hear a spoke go in my rear wheel but looking down it’s still running pretty true. So I push on. 50 miles in it’s time for lunch. I need to eat for my energy.
There is nowhere to hide from the wind or rain. Pulling over I just sit on the bank eating my sandwiches, fruit and chocolate. Cars passing wave in acknowledgement, but they don’t stop and offer me Thanksgiving dinner. One spoke broken one very loose. I tighten it just enough to keep it in place.
The road-kill I’ve seen today is appalling, at least a dozen deer, 5 or 6 skunks, coyote’s, ring-tailed cats (raccoons probably), feral pigs and armadillos. The pigs looked like a whole family had been wiped out in a single stroke. “The Road Kill Cafe” needs to get down here.
20 miles to go and it’s freezing fog, sleet and icy winds. I need to finish ASAP.
I pull into my motel, strip of and start drying my clothes. I remove the back wheel and set about replacing spokes and truing it up. Two new spokes and 20 minutes and it’s done. I repair a puncture, have coffee and jump in a well deserved shower.
I walk out for food but it’s “Thanksgiving” and the three local restaurants are closed. At the local garage I pick up a couple of beers, Snickers and milk. Back to the motel and I microwave myself some pasta and rice. Chocolate biscuits and bananas for a sweet. Can’t be bad. That’s why we carry food!
USA Day 24 Friday November 29th
I’m up and waiting to go, over a hundred miles planned today and it’s grim. I have a quick breakfast in the hotel and I’m rolling at 7:15. Not light yet so I’m on the hard shoulder with my tail lights flashing. It’s raining and foggy but not too cold or windy.
I made my mind up not to look at the Garmin today but just keep riding till I arrive in Lampasas, probably in ten hours or so. Start in the dark, finish in the dark! The road’s good today with villages dotted along the route rather than towns 80 miles apart. So I’m counting down the miles using the villages, but oblivious to the time. The suns not coming up, but it has stopped raining.
The days going well, not so much wind and feeling pretty good. As I brow the climb I spot a pick up-truck parked on the shoulder. As I near the drivers struggles out and halts me. Asking where I’ve been and going. Do I want a lift. I’m fine thank you I reply. He says the weather stinks and the traffic is busy get in the van. I’m hesitant as it’s going fine today, warmer and less wind. But the guys a charm so I agree to throw my bike in the back, bags on the back seat and settle in next to him. 73 years old and the guy’s still working, repairing small motors and tools, in his shop.
After 20 miles I suggest he pulls over and I get back on the bike. Not really – he was at his journey’s end!
I unloaded the bike and his compressor from the back. Perhaps that’s why he picked me up, to unload his van. I don’t think so, far too nice and genuine. I’m only sorry I never got his name.
I struggled to get it going again, so pulled over at a picnic spot and had some lunch. I’m feeling better and I set off with only 30 miles to go. I spot my first live “Armadillo” on the grass verge, definitely in Texas now.
With twenty to do it begins to rain hard but no worries as I’m soaked anyway. I finally roll into Lampasas around 15:00. A good day all-round considering I was expecting the worst. Just need to get my kit dry for tomorrows champagne ride into Austin.
USA Day 25 Saturday November 30th
I was on the road at 7:30 this morning with 60 miles to my sister Debbie’s to go. The forecast last night wasn’t great; rain and headwinds. The first couple of miles is uphill but nothing serious just a climb. When I get to the top I pull over and pack away my gloves and jacket, wow it’s hot and humid today a complete change from yesterday.
It’s a nice route this morning very green with quite steep undulating straight roads. It’s still humid so I’ve had to peel off another layer. Down to my short sleeved shirt and shorts. Still overcast and damp from the overnight rain.
As I approach Austin the sun breaks through briefly and the sweat is pouring off me. This humidity is madness, but surely better than the arid heat of the desert. At least I’m aware of the liquid I’m losing. Unlike the desert when you just realise at the end of a day that you’ve drank 8 litres of water, and not had a bead of sweat or urinated all day.
On the outskirts of Austin I pick up the cycle paths and only have 15 miles to go. I text my sister to insure the beer is chilled, I’ll be with her within the hour.
It’s a nice roll in: not much traffic as it’s a holiday weekend.
As I enter the estate my sister lives on I remember Kristian saying go to the left. I could pull my phone out and check the door number but I have this vision in my head.
Excellent as I turn into where I think Debbie lives she’s stood outside with her husband William, decorating her car with a welcome sign.
Great to see her and William, also glad to be relaxing for a few days.
After a chilled beer or two I take a well earned shower. Feel so much better now. A bit to eat and down to the store to sort tomorrows dinner out. Stopping briefly on the way home for some fine local ales.
Well I finally made it. But what to do from here? Smash it to the east coast and maybe late home for Christmas or call it a day.
I can hear you all saying it’s only 1200 miles. 🙂 🙂
“My name is Ben Viatte and I’m just like you: I’m not quite sure how I got here.
My search started 9 years ago, when I closed my eyes for the first time: I saw that I was free. So I started travelling the world in search of a new mindset. My current pilgrimage is bringing me on foot from Europe, through Northern asia, to holy India.”
When we last checked up on this Ben, Dale , Keith and Linford had bumped into him in Kyrgyzstan. Now he’s crossed through China into Pakistan. He had his issues with the police in western China too as you can read.