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Day 13: Las Cruces, NM to Radium Springs, NM to Las Cruces, NM

38 Miles - Penance Ride, Biked North And Then Returned South To Make Up Mileage - March 4, 2011


Las Cruces, New Mexico Today my goal was straightforward: Pretend I live in Las Cruces and bike a long distance north, preferrably to Hatch, and then ride back. 70 miles was the goal. Just enjoy the day. Simple enough.

This first shot was taken at the intersection of Valley Road and Main Street, near the Motel 6.

Pecan Trees Valley Road is also Highway 185, which travels north out of town. Soon the suburbs ended and pecan groves and chili farms were the norm.

Then I faced something that I was in denial about even though the morning weather forecast predicted it: Headwinds! Chilly winds from the north slammed directly into me. Flags on farms and ranches whipped with intensity to the south. Not many conditions are as demoralizing as a headwind to slow you and mess with your head. It also didn't help that I was ascending up the Rio Grande basin.

Still, I hung in there. At least this headwind would be a tailwind whenever I turned back.

Nice view of a mountain to the northwest.

Rio Grande New Mexico

Radium Springs, New Mexico

I reached Radium Springs at 17 miles. It was a long and tough ride with the ascent and headwinds. And it wasn't very warm either. For miles, the thought crept inside that maybe I'd turn back before reaching Hatch. Radium Springs, at least from Highway 185, didn't have any stores or services, and the inability to get inside probably disheartened me.

So here's where I decided to return to Las Cruces. Yes, I did set the following goals of 1) Bike to Hatch before turning back, and 2) 70 total miles, but this ride was a total pain! There was no way I could simulate an actual bike across America day ride by starting and finishing in the same place. It's just not the same as when you're going in a straight line, and there's pressure of knowing you must make your destination.

By the way, I certainly cycled faster as I returned to Las Cruces, but those menacing winds strangely went away. They didn't help much. The flags I'd passed earlier were now barely flying. No tailwinds. Ugh!

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Las Cruces, NM

So back I made it to Las Cruces, eventually tacking on 38 miles. I had a few ways to look at today. Remove the chaos of recent flat tires, and making it to Deming yesterday would have been a cinch. Then today's ride would have been an easy 50 mile ride on Interstate 10 to Las Cruces. Although I didn't regain all 70 SAG miles, realistically I would have arrived in Las Cruces anyway on this day. Additionally I did tell myself to act like I lived in Las Cruces, and my windy and cold 38-mile ride was certainly respectable for a local.

Still, I didn't feel good, and special thanks to my friend Aimee (with Smile for a Lifetime) for encouraging me. As a marathon runner, she completely understood my feelings as though I'd cheated.

She asked me, "When you come to a town, don't you ride an extra mile or two to find a motel?"

"Sometimes. I do," I said.

"Well, do the math. How many days will you be on your journey? (Answer: 46 days) And how about getting lost? Do you ever bike more because you were looking for something?"

Aimee was right. Maybe I shouldn't have felt so bad. My cross-country tour was over 2,600 miles, and surely I'd make up those extra miles from zigzagging through towns, looking for motels or even getting lost.

In the afternoon, I felt even better about this. I also had an idea that I posted on my Facebook page: My friends and I will have a late summer "penance ride" in Colorado, where we'd bike to the top of Cottonwood Pass from Buena Vista. That would be a tough 35 mile round trip that would completely eradicate any uneasiness about these 32 unaccounted miles. Perhaps I could make it a big social cycling event that would benefit many. We'll see.* :)

* - Stay tuned. I'm typing this on April 27, 2011. Let's see what I can organize. :)

1960 Cadillac
Dead Palm Trees
TOP: I noticed this 1960 Cadillac in Las Cruces. Beautiful!

SECOND: On the edge of a gas station and convenience store, these poor palm trees were the victim of an unusual "freeze" that came through the Southwest in January. How sad to see them looking sick or dead. :(

Organ Mountains, NM I crossed Interstate 25 and settled at a motel on Highway 70 on the east side of town.

Look at those enchanting Organ Mountains!

TV in Motel Room By the evening, I knew I needed to keep the streak going of photographing myself. Here's a good one: Me lying on the bed and watching TV. ;)

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