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Day 12: Lordsburg, NM to Las Cruces, NM

Biked 40 Miles (Hitched Ride For 70 Miles) - Three More Flat Tires, Rode In Tom's SAG Wagon - March 3, 2011

Interstate 10 I biked onto Interstate 10 from Lordsburg at about 8 a.m. Tom and Patty were slowly getting ready at the hotel, and surely I expected them to catch up to me.

Today's goal was Deming, New Mexico, 60 miles east.

Racing For Cancer After 15 miles, Tom and his SAG did catch up. It was nice to ride together again.

And what do you know? As the morning progressed, swift winds came from the west. It was completely at our backs!

We enjoyed the extra speed. Less talking. Noisy wind. Lots of trucking traffic on the Interstate.

SAG Wagon
This time, I didn't drop the camera when I photographed Patty driving the SAG! :)
It was going well for the first 22 miles when ...

Flat Tire #7

Unbelieveable! Front tire again. Tom and Patty stopped as I took care of things. Mind you, I used the second of the two inner tubes Tom had given me yesterday. When all finished, Tom handed me another inner tube; I accepted it as I shook my head in bewilderment.

Flat Tire #8

Five more miles. Riding well with Tom. Enjoying the tailwind ...

Another flat in the front tire! This time the air came out ever so slowly that we both could hear the high-pitched sound of air leaking. Upon inspecting the tire, I noticed air was coming out of the side. At this point, I had zero confidence in this Serfas tire.

Bicycle Tire Upgrade

Before I started to work on the tire, Tom said, "Hold on. I have an idea." He went to the back of his truck, removed the front wheel off his spare bike, and put it on mine! A generous move, and I was willing to try anything.

Tom did more for me: Since yesterday, the mechanism that held the front breaks was shifting back and forth, and sometimes the break pads rubbed lightly against the wheel's frame. I kept tinkering with it with my fingers, but to no avail. Then Tom pulled out his tool and tightened just the right bolt to make it right. Was I grateful? Oh yes. But it was kind of embarrassing. There I was, the supposed expert who already biked across America once, and this man was taking care of me like I was a child. To be frank, I probably could have figured out the problem and tightened that bolt myself, but too often my mindset is "I'm terrible at mechanical things" ... so much that I don't bother trying.

Right there on the shoulder of Interstate 10, I had to face an issue that sometimes shows up in my life. Although I tended to me humble about my cross-country bike tour, a part of me still wanted to show the world that I didn't need anyone's help. It happens in real life too, whether it's work matters, finances, relationships, goals I'm working toward, etc.

But here was a situation where that facade was completely blown off. I needed help. We all need help, if we're honest. I'd like to think I was a help to Tom, too. Clearly he was encouraged and happy to have a fellow cyclist with him. Even before we resumed riding, Tom was on his cell and became upset with his attorney over a matter about selling his house. He was clearly ticked. "Hang in there, buddy," I said, in a gentle and encouraging tone. That's all I said. It was enough to invite him to vent for a while and refocus on biking.

Interstate 10 New Mexico

Southwest New Mexico Plains

So onward we continued on Interstate 10. And oh my goodness, our westerly winds had given us wings! We were easily in the 18-24 mph range, sometimes faster.

Also, Tom's sporty front wheel on my bike made quite a difference. It had less spokes and seemed to have lesser resistence.

SECOND PHOTO: The view to the south. Notice the yellow plains grass leaning to the left, in the direction of east. ;)

Continental Divide

Continental Divide

As a Coloradan, the Continental Divide brings up images of home. I think of lofty mountain ridges packed with snow for 9-10 months of year - places like Cottonwood Pass, Monarch Pass, Loveland Pass and Independence Pass.

As for here, we hardly noticed an indentation in the land. Flatness. :)

Our stop was brief. Then we resumed our ride in this glorious wind. As we sped, I considered how strong this wind was pushing me and how I'd make it to Deming fairly soon. With all my recent problems, I knew I needed to take advantage of the conditions and continue to Las Cruces with Tom and Patty.

I smiled as I reflected on how this story would be told in this journal: After all of yesterday's and today's problems, I would get to ride a century with the wonderful help from the Racing For Cancer team. It would be another great ending like yesterday!

No doubt the tail wind and speed had me giddy as I cycled with Tom. Las Cruces, here I come! All was going well at 40 miles when ...

Flat Tire #9

Photo Above: This time, I found the culprit. I pulled this piece of metal sticking out from the back tire.

... Would you believe it? For the second consecutive day, I got my third flat tire.

After eight in the front, finally I got a flat in my trusted Bontrager hardcase back tire. It happened right at Exit 62 on Interstate 10, an obscure turn-off that had some kind of rest stop in the middle of nowhere. I had biked 40 miles, with 20 to go to Deming.

"I'm done," I said, as I placed my bike on the SAG's rack. I certainly didn't want to slow Tom a third time to fix this. As I sat in the SUV with Patty as we slowly traveled to Deming, I mulled my options, which weren't many. Staying in Deming wouldn't be wise, especially with all these flats. I needed to get to the nearest bicycle shop as soon as possible, which was in Las Cruces. That would mean riding in this SUV for 70 miles.

Tom biked to a Subway restaurant in Deming, where we rested at his halfway point. Now I did have one inner tube that Tom had given me earlier, and in retrospect, I suppose I could have fixed the back tire in the parking lot, but something inside was finished. I was fed up! I was using up too many of Tom's spare inner tubes as it was. And so I made the painful decision to "SAG" my way to Las Cruces.

Deming, NM
Tom on the on-ramp for Interstate 10 east in Deming.
In this section, most of the pictures were taken as I sat in the passenger seat. It was so tough to sit in a vehicle and watch Tom speed in the southwest New Mexico desert.

No! The story was going wrong! The wonderful ending was supposed to have me riding 100+ miles with Tom into Las Cruces! Surely I would have made it. Sigh. :(

An odd mix of feelings went through me. I was disgusted with my bad luck, yet grateful for the good luck to have these people helping me.

Tom Vossman It was fun to snap numerous pictures of Tom's Racing For Cancer ride to St. Petersburg. In fact, Patty alluded to the fact that they hadn't taken as many pictures as they would have liked. That motivated me to take loads of pictures for them!

Adjacent Photo: Nice shot of Tom cruising on the shoulder. :)

Las Cruces Billboard

Side View Mirror

People come and go in our lives. Sometimes people's journeys join together for long or short periods. Other times, their lives might intersect with just an interaction for a brief moment. Whatever the case, God had hooked me up with Tom and Patty for two days and I would make the most of it.

As for the Racing For Cancer team, Patty was the unsung hero. Don't think of her as someone with nothing to do as she drove slowly, as though it wasn't a hard job. She was constantly checking traffic and watching Tom. Often she was on her phone (with a headseat) and calling hotels to negotiate the lowest rate for them to stay each night. She had other administrative tasks she would perform by phone. When not driving, she was tracking donations and the charity's Facebook and Twitter pages. You'd be surprised how busy a person can be as a SAG wagon driver.

Although the wind pushed Tom like crazy and kept him steady near 20 mph, it still felt ridiculously slow in a vehicle. When we passed the adjacent billboard reading, "Are we there yet?" Patty suggested I take a picture of that. She said that's what it has felt like most days. No doubt.

Also, what do you think of us through the side view mirror? :)

Windy desert plains. Not much cactus. Flat with small mountains in the distance.

Southwest New Mexico scenery, at least from Interstate 10, isn't much.

Tom's Flat Tire

Tom cycled so well. About 25 miles from Las Cruces, the shoulder's pavement became rougher and slowed him down. Tom made gestures of frustration over the rugged road. As a fellow cyclist, I knew what he was feeling.

Then at the 98 mile mark for Tom, he got a flat in the back tire.

Old West Moccasins Onward we went. By the way, I have "old west" mocassins that I haven't worn for years! Photos here and here. :)
Approaching Las Cruces.
I-10 New Mexico Off the Interstate and crossing the bridge at the most westerly exit in Las Cruces. I wanted to photograph the Rio Grande (a few miles ahead), but the angle from the road wouldn't allow it.

Outdoor Adventures - Las Cruces, New Mexico
Hard Case Tire
Photo Above: Truly, after all I had experienced, I was weary and exasperated at the Las Cruces bike shop. Somehow I managed to smile for the camera as I held a new hardcase Bontrager tire that would replace the Serfas front tire that kept going flat.

Las Cruces Bike Shop

Upon learning my story, the store owner wasn't surprised. "That's typical desert riding," he said. In retrospect, I searched other cross-country journals and noticed many had reports of flat tires on I-10 from Lordsburg to Las Cruces. Maybe the road is an awful mess for cyclists' tires, after all.

My move: I got rid of the Serfas front tire, moved the Bontrager hardcase tire in the back to the front, and bought an identical hardcase tire for the back. As for tubes, on top of buying four standard ones for road bike tires (18-23 mm; my flats were with 15-17 mm tubes), I bought four thicker inner tubes at 28-32 mm that were labelled "thorn resistant." Two would go inside my tires, the other two were spares. Just a few extra millimeters in thickness would make a huge difference in being more puncture resistant. Although I'd worry for a time, I am pleased to say I had no more flats for the remainder of my journey of nearly 2,000 miles.

Yes, I swear by these tires and inner tubes and will never ride with anything else. Check them out:

Bontrager Hard Case Tire: Bontrager Hardcase Road Bike Tire
Bontrager Bike Tube - 700 x 28-32 mm: {They should be labeled "thorn resistant."}

By the way, I do recommend Outdoor Adventures bicycle and outdoor shop in Las Cruces. They had a large selection of bikes and bicycle accessories with a knowledgable staff. Their website is www.outdooradventures-lc.com.

Saying Good-Bye To Tom and Patty

In front of the bike shop, I gave Patty my camera and she uploaded all of my photos (about 150 to 200) from the past two days onto her laptop. It was a modest gift to them.

As for this evening's lodging choices, Tom and Patty had obtained a good rate at a higher-end hotel in Las Cruces, but they were unable to get me the same rate. And of course, I didn't expect Tom to buy me another room.

And so, it was time to say good-bye. We hugged. They wished me the best and I did the same. Then they went on their way. The ending seemed sad and abrupt.

I biked through Las Cruces neighborhoods and found a Motel 6 on Valley Road. The motel seemed like it was in a not-so-great area, but maybe that was all in my head.

I did know I was upset to have hitched a ride for 70 miles. I was also very rattled by all of those flat tires. (Seven flat tires in three days!) And now I was in a lonely and depressing motel room that I didn't feel comfortable in. But this is what biking across America is sometimes. It's usually not fun or glamorous. Hard days are surely part of the journey! Expect them as part of life and have a plan. In fact, I have a video where I tell people to "get ready" for the tough days. Oh how it's so much easier said than done.

Making Up Mileage and Restoring Peace

As for tomorrow, I knew I couldn't ride off from Las Cruces as though I earned my way here. I suppose I could have hitchhiked or paid a ton of money to have a taxi drive me 70 miles to Exit 62 on Interstate 10, but the former seemed far-fetched, the latter expensive. Not to mention, I didn't want to tempt fate with more riding on that wretched and dirty highway.

So tomorrow, I would have a penance ride. If today I "cheated" 70 miles with a support vehicle, then tomorrow I would do a day ride that started and ended in the same place. With Hatch, New Mexico 35 miles to the north, I decided tomorrow I'd bike to that town, and then bike straight back to Las Cruces to make up the mileage.

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