Ride for the Dream

Cycling From Coast To Coast

Archive for March, 2014

Day 16 – Balmorhea, TX

by on March 19th, 2014

We (Kevin & Buck) decided to go off the route this morning and come up with a more “reasonable” day after yesterday’s 117 miles.  We continued more directly east than southeast and found a town on the map with basic services 72 miles from Van Horn that kept us going in the right direction.  Buck decided to camp when we got here and I’m holed up at The Eleven Inn in Balmorhea. It’s actually not a bad little spot.  We had the winds with us today but it looks like they will be turning against us the next two days at least.

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We ran into a guy (Russ, 63 years old) out on the road this morning that we met a couple of times earlier in the trip.  We pulled off the road because we saw a gas station (a rare occasion between towns in west Texas)….only to find out it was closed.  Russ and two guys from Minnesota he had picked up along the way were sitting there having just done the same thing.  It was surprising that we ran into them, I think they were the only people not in a car that we saw the last two days between destinations. They also stopped in Balmorhea but are headed further south in the direction of the border tomorrow and I think we are going to continue more directly east (still under discussion).  Some of you bikers might notice that Russ’s bike has a single gear on the front….no climbing gear.  From what I could gather the gear is bigger than my middle ring and smaller than my large ring.  He’s riding a freshly painted 25 year old frame as well.  Needless to say he is pretty fit.

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We saw this sign this morning and have now dubbed Buck the “Michigan Flat” as he is from Michigan and has had seven flat tires.

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Ben and Baptiste are about 100 miles behind us in Sierra Blanca.

Here are a few other pics from the last two days…..

Border Patrol
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Those tiny black things in pic are cows

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It’s cold in the morning so we are riding in jackets and one other layer to start usually

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Day 15 – Van Horn, TX

by on March 18th, 2014

Buck and I left El Paso around 7:30 this morning.  Ben decided he needed a rest day and stayed in El Paso as did Baptiste.  Our scheduled stop today was Fort Hancock with the next day going to Van Horn.  Our plan in the morning was to push past Fort Hancock and try for Sierra Blanca (between Fort Hancock and Van Horn).

We got to Sierra Blanca feeling pretty good and rode on to Van Horn for a total distance on the day of 117 miles, picking up a full day on the schedule.  At some point we assume we will need to take a rest day or not ride because of storms, etc. so it’s nice to have a couple of days “in the bank”.  The only downside to our long ride today is that the next city suitable to stop in for the night is Fort Davis, 90 miles away and about 2,200 feet higher in elevation before we get there.  So, our choices for tomorrow are a rest day or 90 miles mostly uphill.  We will likely do the 90 miles unless we can’t get out of bed in the morning. See the elevation change below between Van Horn and Fort Davis.  It’s not very clear but Van Horn is city on far left andFort Davis on Far right.

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We also had no flats or mechanical issues today which made the long ride doable.  We are now more than a day ahead of Ben and Baptiste and it’s possible that we won’t reconnect with them directly but will stay in close contact via text and phone.

West Texas is pretty desolate and we didn’t see too many people today.  We did pass through a Border Patrol station as we were in close proximity to the border most of the way.  We are currently in the “hill country” and tomorrow’s trip will be the last of the big elevation change days on the route.

 

 

Day 14 – El Paso, TX

by on March 17th, 2014

Today we left New Mexico and entered Texas where we will spend the better part of the next 16 days, longer than we have been on the road total to this point.
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We had a fairly easy riding day with good conditions ….. but a long day at the same time.  We were plagued with multiple flat tires as a group. Buck had three and Ben two for a total of five separate flat tire fix stops.  At that point everyone was also low on tubes so we had to take some time to repair/patch a few as well.

We stopped at a local bike shop in El Paso to restock on tubes and get some tube liners for Buck’s tires to cut down on his flats.  The Gator Skins he is using are no match for steel belted radial wires on the sides of the roads or the goat head thorns / bull head thorns (I have heard them called both). We rolled our bikes off the road to take pics at the Texas state line and all got bull head thorns in our tires.  I spent twenty minutes pulling them out of my tires without an actual flat (Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires are thicker and have kevlar lining).  Both of Buck’s tires went flat immediately.  The thorns are everywhere.  I stepped on one in my hotel room last night.  Flat tire count.. Buck (7), Ben (3), Kevin (2), Baptiste (2). Below are what the bull head thorns look like, they are nasty little buggers.

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Later in the day we rolled through downtown El Paso which was nice on a Sunday afternoon with little traffic.  We were stopped at at traffic light recounting the “flatathon” that made up the day to that point when someone commented that it was not so bad…nobody had been hurt yet or taken a tumble from their bike, etc. Ben made a point that he had never fallen off his road bike or wrecked.  At the next traffic light I looked back and Ben’s bike was on the ground and he was rolling across the sidewalk.  We stopped quickly as the light was a long yellow and he thought we were going to go through and had to slam his breaks on.  Once we realized he wasn’t hurt we had a huge laugh at his expense.

We are once again very close to the Mexican border and will continue to ride near it for the next several days. Tomorrow we are scheduled to stop in Hancock, Texas but may try and push to the next town with basic services depending on how the day goes.  It gets pretty sparse after we leave El Paso for quite a while.

 

 

Day 13 – Las Cruces, NM

by on March 15th, 2014

Today was much the same as yesterday as far as conditions.  We still had a nice tailwind and were considering going all the way to El Paso, TX and picking up a day on the schedule.  We made it the 60 miles to Las Cruces in time to push on to El Paso but had to make an unscheduled stop to repair a Baptiste flat (or puncture as he calls it) just on the outskirts of town and also stopped at a local bike shop for some maintenance on his bike.  The 10,000+ miles so far on his trip has taken a toll on the equipment.  His front derailleur cable housing basically collapsed, causing the cable to lose tension. The result was being stuck in the same front gear for the last two and half days.  I performed some Kentucky engineering on his bike with a stick and a rock (custom fit of course) to at least fix his derailleur/chain on the large ring instead of the small one.  Unbelievably, it stayed in place for the last two days of favorable conditions and faster riding.  After the bike shop stop it clouded up, dropped about twenty degrees and started raining (of course after I mentioned in yesterday’s post that we had yet to see any rain) so we called it a day.

Cable Failure                  Redneck Engineering
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…..a pain when the rear wheel has a flat, have to remove all the gear/bags , etc.
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Before we left Deming this morning we met a very nice couple from Wisconsin on their way to California.  Here is a pic of Carole and Kerm Morgan.  They wanted to show their support (either that or they just felt sorry for us, we are a little rough looking at this point) and gave us $20.

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Some nice views as we rode into Las Cruces

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Day 12 – Deming, NM

by on March 15th, 2014

At the end of yesterday’s ride Baptiste and Ben were 40 miles behind me and Buck was 47 miles away on a different route.  He went up in the mountains as far as Silver City (where I had planned to go today) and was going to cross Emory Pass before returning to Las Cruces, NM.  As it turned out there was snow at that elevation (8,200 feet) and it likely wasn’t suitable for biking, so we made a plan last night to reconnect back towards where I was in Lordsburg, NM.  I waited until he arrived which happened to be about the same time (unplanned) Baptiste and Ben rolled into town from their 40 mile shortfall from the previous day.

We had very favorable winds for the afternoon and decided to go half way to Las Cruces and stop in Deming, 63 miles away, but didn’t leave until 1:00 PM.  That would have been impossible the last two days averaging less than 9 mph because of the windy conditions.  Mother nature paid us back today with 15-20 mph tailwinds from the west and we made it to Deming in like 3 1/2 hours.  Buck and I averaged 18.5 mph over mostly flat roads, by far the fastest leg of the trip.  What a difference a day makes.  That same trip the last two days would have taken more than 9 hours of riding and breaks.  With an earlier start the 120 miles to Las Cruces would have been much less of a workout than the prior two 75 mile days.  Conditions are everything.  I almost hate to say this…..but we have not seen a drop of rain since we left San Diego.

Not many pics today because of the later start (for me anyway) and quick trip.  I have some pretty scary tan lines going on, fingers from gloves, socks, sleeves, forehead……

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Tomorrow we go to Las Cruces, NM and then El Paso, TX

 

 

 

Day 10 & 11- Safford, AZ and Lordsburg, NM

by on March 14th, 2014

Yesterday was supposed to be a relatively easy 78 miles to Safford.  After all, Buck did it the day before and reported his highest average speed of the trip at 14.5 mph for the ride from Globe to Safford.  For those of you who ride your bike a lot that doesn’t sound like a real high number….but with a 28 pound bike loaded with 40-50 lbs of gear, wide tires (700×32) over some hills and it’s a pretty decent clip.

Well, to make a long story short….the winds shifted directly into our face coming from the east and blew consistently 25-40 mph all day.  Apparently this is very atypical with winds typically blowing 5-15 mph from the west.  You couldn’t see the mountains through the dust.  Buck and I have ridden together for much of the trip and finished together almost every day except for the one he decided to ride ahead, so we are fairly comparable with speed and time.  Today’s trip took me 10 hours of constant pedaling, much of it in my easiest hill climb gear just to be able to move forward.  I had to pedal on all of the down hills as well.  It was definitely the hardest ride of the trip on a day that was supposed to be relatively easy.  My average speed for the day was like 8.5 mph.  If you ride any distance on your bike you can appreciate what a brutal day it was.  There were actually a few times when the wind almost brought me to a complete stop…..crazy.  Ben and Baptiste were two hours behind me when I finished and ran out of daylight.

We stayed with a warmshowers.org host in Safford who actually went and picked them up about 13 miles from their house when they realized they were not going to make it.   The Larson’s cooked us dinner and breakfast, provided beds, showers and laundry.  They have a family home right next to their parents home on the same property.  We stayed with the grandparents, 83 and 84 years old.  I installed a new webcam on their computer they were fiddling with (hardly any great contribution compared with what they did for us but they seemed to appreciate it).  Their 19 year old grandson Kyle cooked us dinner because his father had to work late.  This is Kyle on the left.  Grandma and Grandpa fixed us some fresh waffles for breakfast. Special thanks to Mons (the dad) and his family. Unbelievable hospitality for three strangers.

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Earlier in the day I came across a guy that is walking across the country (yes walking)…..Forest Gump style.  He is 22 years old and by all accounts a normal, intelligent, educated guy.  He said he wanted to do this as a “life experience” before he started his career.  He walks 20-25 miles each day pushing a three wheeled stroller looking thing with all of his gear in it.  He started in Philadelphia and walked all the way to Abilene, TX before running into some extended unseasonably cold weather in Texas and decided to relocate to California and walk back to Abilene in nicer weather to complete the trip. His name is Carl.
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On Day 11 I left Arizona and entered New Mexico.  I was pretty much exhausted from the “windfest” the day before and today wasn’t much better.  Distance about the same, wind strong but not as bad but a positive elevation climb on the day. I averaged less than 10 mph and just put my head down and ground it out.  There was only one small town (Duncan, AZ) between Safford and Lordsburg, the rest was very secluded, no place to get water, etc.  It was obvious that by the time Ben and Baptiste reached Duncan that they would not make the 36 miles to Lordsburg before before nightfall and they decided to stay there. Someone let them stay in this trailer tonight for free.

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I am in Lordsburg, in a hotel for the first time in four nights and very much appreciating this bed after two nights of camping and sleeping on the Larson’s couch (although it was pretty comfortable).

The following welcome to New Mexico sign has a nice shotgun blast in it including a big hole and smaller buckshot holes.

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The New Mexico landscape was pretty barren today….

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Arizona yesterday in the early morning before mountains were obscured by dust….

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I have crossed over several “rivers” since leaving San Diego and none have actually had any water in them.  This was the Gila River riverbed (had a little water).

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Not sure how far I’m going tomorrow, Ben and Baptiste are 40 miles behind me and Buck is 47 miles ahead of me. I’m going to try and figure a way to hook back up with Buck over the next few days and ride with him for a while.  I think Ben will need to go at a slower pace and Baptiste appears determined to be Ben’s guardian angel.

 

Day 8 & 9- Superior, AZ and Globe, AZ

by on March 12th, 2014

I couldn’t post to the blog last night because I ended up having to camp where there was no cell reception…..more on that in little bit.

Yesterday morning we left my cousin Amy’s house after she and Chris made sure we had enough breakfast and food for the road…..thanks again!

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Our next stop was supposed to be Apache Junction, AZ but we were a little further along than planned so we continued on about 80 miles to Superior, AZ where we encountered some heavy climbing towards the end of the day.  Buck and I decided to push on to the top of the mountain, about 4500 feet with the last 5 miles accounting for a 2000 foot climb. Easiest touring gear straight up at 5-6 mph.  Ben and Baptiste (I misspelled his name in prior posts) elected to stay at the bottom and make the climb this morning.  It was very warm when we started up and didn’t anticipate how cold it would get once the sun went down at elevation.  We had our tents set up just before dark.  Temps dipped into at least the high 20′s and by morning ice had formed on the outside of my tent.  It was a bit of a long night but I was warm enough (but still cold) with all of my clothes on in my sleeping bag and small tent zipped up tight.  My first night camping on the trip so far and was a little creepy.  I could hear what I assume were coyote’s howling at different parts of the night.  There were a few other campers in the area which was actually of some comfort.

In the morning we headed down the other side of the mountain which was nice but chilly. Buck and I stopped in Globe, AZ for breakfast.  Buck decided to keep going to Safford, AZ (our next stop) and I elected to wait for Ben and Baptiste.  It was a short day for me but the climbing took its toll on Ben so we elected to stay in Globe for the day.  We are still on schedule because of extra miles put in yesterday and two days prior.  So, the three of us are camping tonight on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation about 8 miles out of Globe, next to their Casino.  Thats’s my tent in the front. Baptiste reading his book. Camping on “the res” is a no no unless you are on casino property from what we have been told.  This is at least the third Indian reservation we have traveled through.

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Tomorrow we are heading 78-80 miles to Safford, AZ before we head into the biggest climbs of the entire trip in New Mexico, topping out at 8,000 feet plus over a 3-4 day period.  Ben has decided to reroute around the mountains to avoid the climbing and reconnect with us in Las Cruces, NM.  He will be on his own for those three days.  I’m not sure what Buck’s plan is but think he may wait for Baptiste and I for the big climbs…. but he also may just keep on trucking.

The scenery the last two days has been spectacular but it just doesn’t translate with Iphone or handheld camera pictures. Ben’s chain broke today but he and Baptiste successfully repaired it.  I had a slow leak in my front tube although couldn’t find anything in the tire.  I changed it out anyway to be safe as I waited for Ben and Baptiste.

A few pics….

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Day 7 – Chandler, AZ

by on March 10th, 2014

This morning we rode a few miles past Phoenix to Chandler, AZ.  My Aunt Jackie lives in Phoenix and my cousin Amy and her family (husband Chris and three sons Eric, Mark and Nick) live in Chandler.  Amy and Chris were gracious (and brave) enough to invite me and the whole crew to stay at their house for the night AND cooked us a wonderful dinner. My Aunt Jackie came over as well and we enjoyed a sort of mini family reunion.  Definitely the best food and company we have had on the trip.  It has been several years since I have seen Amy and her family and it was great to catch up.  A heartfelt thanks to Amy and Chris….you have a great family and a beautiful home (Good luck Eric on your interview).

Today was supposed to be a sort of mini recovery day.  Ben spent most of the day at the local bike shop getting a new touring bike set up and having his other bike shipped home.  The rest of us stopped by an REI en route to get a few cycling related items.  By the time we made it to Amy’s house in Chandler we still logged about 50 miles.  We are about 25 miles ahead of schedule so we will have to make some decisions tomorrow about how far to ride and where we end up.

Me with Amy and Jackie                                                                Cousins

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Batiste and  Chris                                            Buck and Amy

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Ben and Buck with Jackie

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Day 6 – Surprise, AZ

by on March 9th, 2014

A quick note to anyone who may have tried to reach me through the “Contact” page on the rideforthedream.com site.  I had forgotten that a lot of those emails were getting caught in the gmail spam filter the contact form is linked to.  The spam folder only keeps a few days worth of emails in it before it automatically deletes them.  I f I didn’t respond it means I never got it.  Please try again or email me directly at ktgambill@gmail.com

Our original plan for today had us doing only 55-60 miles, arriving in Wickenburg, AZ and about 70 miles tomorrow to Phoenix.  We decided to push past Wickenburg and rode 86 miles to Surprise, AZ.  This will allow for a shorter ride into Phoenix on Sunday and kind of a rest day.  Ben and Buck are both lightening their load a little by mailing home some of their gear.  Ben is also going to swap his modified road bike in Phoenix for a proper touring bike with a third ring on the front for hill climbing and a rear rack to better distribute the load of his gear.

I’m starting to feel less depleted at days end, and recovering quicker for the next day’s ride which is encouraging……fighting my back a little bit but nothing to be concerned about at this point.

Today was extremely windy and made for some tough riding early on.  Batiste lead us up a 30 mile gradual uphill stretch with a very strong headwind by riding point and allowing the rest of us to draft in behind him in single file.  He’s a very strong rider with his 10,000 mile base already logged on the trip (and he’s 29…).  This was my view for those 30 miles (I know…don’t text and ride!)
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Both Buck and Ben had flat tires today.  Ben was lucky enough to be able to change his on a stop at a small market.  Buck was less lucky and we had to change it on the side of the road….was also the rear tire which means you have to remove all of the gear from your bike (rear panniers) and turn it upside down, etc. Flat tire count is now Buck (3), Batiste (1), Kevin (1), Ben (1).  Both flats were caused by wires from steel belted truck/car tires, same as my flat yesterday.  Ben and Buck are riding Continental Gatorskin tires and Batiste and I have Schwalbe Marathons (I’m sure you were dying to know).

Buck on ground, me supervising….                                                                                       

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Ben’s desert trooper get up
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It was a slow “news day” picture wise.  Just a long day riding in the wind.  I was eating lunch at a Subway in Wickenburg when I saw a girl wearing cowboy boots and spurs.  I wasn’t sure if it was a fashion statement or the real deal, then five minutes later another girl walked in with boots, spurs, hat and one of those pizza sized belt buckles.  Real cowgirls I reckon.

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This plaque was on a historical marker.
It references a stage coach ambush and
massacre by Apache Mojave Indians in 1871.

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We would have liked to stop in at this
Dude ranch and ride some horses but
our arses are too raw.

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Day 5 – Salome, AZ

by on March 8th, 2014

California is behind us and now in Arizona! We were all a little sluggish this morning following the hot 90+ mile ride through the desert yesterday.  We had less than 70 miles to ride today so we took our time, making several stops and trying to stay together as a group of four more than the last couple of days.  We were still a little spread out but would regroup every 15 – 20 miles.  The weather was sunny and not as hot but very windy, which made some of the hills tougher than they might have been. We ran across some interesting characters today.  The guy below is named Jim Smith (which I kind of doubt is his real name based on the way he said it….had to be there).  Jim is 80 years old and travels around with his dog.  I think the bike is basically his home.
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A few miles down the road Buck and I looked off to our left and saw a guy that had this mechanical jig set up, and appeared to be mining for something.  Buck wanted to get off the bikes and go talk to the guy.  I wasn’t sure it was a good idea at first, but he was happy to talk to us and very friendly.  He was mining for gold and had a gas powered generator/pump hooked up to a kind of sifter, for lack of a better term.  He would shovel dirt/sand through the screen, the big rocks would roll of the front and the finer material would pass through the screen and into a vibrating panel that had baffles on it.  The heavier gold would settle in the baffles while the dirt/sand would fall out the bottom (at least that was my best take on it).  He proudly showed us some nuggets he mined and even told Buck and I to grab a shovel and make like we were gold mining.  A very cool experience…..thanks to Buck for making me stop.

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I picked up a flat tire with about six miles left to ride.  I pumped it up three times and nursed it into Salome where I made the repairs at the town’s only hotel ($43/night).  I had a strand of metal from a steel belted car tire in my flat resistant kevlar lined tires.  It was as sharp as a hypodermic needle and about half as thin.  I took the opportunity to tighten everything on the bike and wash/relube the chain which gets pretty gummed up with dust and dirt.  I should be good for another 500 miles or so before doing it again.  The flat tire count so far is Buck (2), Batiste (1), Kevin (1), Ben (0).

Batiste had never seen a cactus, yellow school bus or dually pick up and he took several pictures of all of the above today. Pretty funny.  He also doesn’t wear a helmet when he rides….wears a kind of straw cowboy hat.  He’s an “interesting” character for sure.  I think he intends to go all the way to Florida with us before taking a 12 day cruise from Miami to Spain to continue his ride there.

I don’t know much about cactus, but this looks to be a pretty big one.

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Some other miscellaneous pics from today….
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