Thursday, May 28, 2009

Biking to Las Cruces (Day 21)

Things are coming to an end soon. I'm getting a little tired of cycling (especially in the desert) and the roads out here are brutal on my bike. Lots of bumps, holes, and cracks with loose, pointy trash scattered about. Hit something along the way today and my rear wheel is out of true again. Will need to get it mended tomorrow if I hope to continue on to Texas.

While in the small town of Akela, I biked about a quarter of a mile to the C-store, which had this long, amusement-park-like frontier facade. I went inside to get something to eat, but all they had was overpriced snack food and a hot dog that's been on the roller-grill since the Reagan administration. The lady working there recommended I go to the "casino," which was back by the highway exit, for a freshly-made meal. I realized I had already biked past the bland, windowless "casino" before, but at the time, I thought it was some administrative office for the highway, not a place of food and betting. But thankfully, the lady's info was right on the money. I got a drink, chicken sandwich and fries for 6 bucks and relaxed in a nice, chilled room... which was empty except for the occasional local who came in to buy cheap cartons of cigarettes. And even though it wasn't technically a "casino," I found out that they did have bingo twice a week.

It was another hot, hot day in the 100's and I managed to bike 60 miles, reaching the town of Las Cruces by sunset. The total miles since I began 3 weeks ago is 943. CLICK HERE to get closer to the action.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Crossing the Continental Divide (Day 20)

Before leaving the Arby's in Lordsburg yesterday, I asked the roast beef server behind the counter if there were any services off of I-10 in the 59-mile stretch to Deming. He told me there was the the Continental Divide Store in Separ, about 20 miles away... which also happens to be one of the oddball landmarks noted by Roadside America. Figuring it was my only place to get supplies, I got up this morning, went to the shop, and loaded up with their overpriced food and drinks. And because I was feeling rather quirky, I bought a bunch of fireworks as well. I didn't really get a good vibe at the store and wished I didn't have to give them so much of my precious money. But it was another hot day, and figured I needed to be properly supplied for the next 40 miles or so in the desert.

While taking my picture in front of the over-sized tepee next to the store, I met a pair of ladies who were on their way from Florida to Phoenix to start a new job. Along with them were two dogs and a cat. They seemed a little weirded out by my beard and my eagerness to talk to them, but became more amicable once I offered to take their picture in front of the large conical tent. I even got both dogs and the cat in the shot.

From Separ, I got back onto I-10 east. When consulting my maps earlier, I was originally planning on taking a frontage road that paralleled the freeway, but then I found out it was nothing but a bumpy dirt pathway. So, I continued on the busy interstate. I soon discovered something else -- there was another service station (along with a Dairy Queen) only 8 miles after Separ, and then another service station 6 miles after that. I wish I knew that before, otherwise, I wouldn't have spent a dime at that Continental Divide Store. And since I was already overloaded with overpriced potables, I didn't even stop at any of the other shops.

The end of the day brought me to the midsized town of Deming, which had a Kmart where I could finally get a spare tube for my trailer wheel. As I was getting back on my bike outside the store, I met an out-of-work carpenter out on his bike as well. He told me his birth name was Andrew, but now calls himself Drew. He explained that too many people back east used to call him Andy, which he hated and actually led to several altercations. So now, to avoid fist fights, he tells people his name is Drew. During the rest of our conversation, I kept mostly quiet and let him do all the talking, in fear of accidentally calling him by the wrong name.

After getting some food at the BK and some supplies at the Dollar Tree, I checked into a Motel 6 on the east side of town. I actually ended up having to switch rooms -- twice! -- because each one I went into had dirty floors and unmade beds. Finally, the third time was a charm! I actually entered a room that was cleaned and vacuumed and didn't have piles of used, pubic-hair-encrusted towels strewn in the bathroom. However, I think the maids are going to get a vicious tongue-lashing from the manager tomorrow, who was not so pleased with having to keep moving me around from room to room.

I biked a total of 44 miles -- another unimpressive distance, but one that is becoming the trend ever since I left Benson, AZ. This brings the grand total to 881.5 miles. CLICK HERE if you doubt me!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

New Mexico (Day 19)

Well, I have finally made it to New Mexico... and I got to celebrate this state crossing by biking up a hill. It actually wasn't terribly bad. I was able to reach the summit without having to stand up on my pedals.

Once inside the NM border, I went to go visit the Steins Ghost Town off of exit 3. Even though the former railroad station town had over a half-dozen of the original buildings from the late 1800s still intact, it turned out to be a rather dull and uninspired place. The buildings were pretty dilapidated (almost to the point of being unrecognizable) and they were juxtaposed with the visible Interstate-10 (only a few hundred feet away), which ruined any possibility of being "transformed" into the 19th century. But, it didn't matter too much, since I was planning on going to the better-known, Shakespeare Ghost Town in the next town of Lordsburg, which I heard was a little more impressive and well-preserved. However, by the time I got to Lordsburg some 20 miles later, I was feeling hot, tired and thirsty and didn't feel like pedaling the extra 5 miles to go to the ghost town.

With the trip to the ghost town nixed, my next goal was to find beverage-- FAST! Once I saw the golden arches of a McDonald's, I eagerly pedaled to the front door and rushed inside to get a burger and (more importantly) an ice cold fountain drink. You can imagine how disappointed I was when I saw several hand-written signs saying "no sodas" displayed at the front counter. So, I headed back out into the 100-degree air in search of another fast-food venue. I called my friend Jeff, who said Google Maps indicated a Subway shop only 500 feet from where I was. But we soon found out -- Google was wrong! All that was at the said location was a liquor store and the home of Jamie Gum. So, from there, I went to the last fast-food option in the area -- a Taco Bell. I wasn't too excited about going there because I just ate Taco Bell leftovers for dinner the night before. But my lack of enthusiasm turned to sharp horror when I entered the dirty and dismal place. As thirsty and cotton-mouthed as I was, I couldn't bare eating at that disgusting Taco Bell with unclean tables, shifty workers and piles of dirt swept into the corners.

I finally found an Arby's on the east side of town. It sort of smelled like a uriney homeless man, but I think that was just the curly fries. All in all, it was tolerable, and at least they had an outlet where I could charge my cell phone and laptop.

After munching down my bacon-cheddar-roast-beef sandwich, I biked another 10-12 miles along Interstate-10, totaling around 55 miles for the day, and 837 miles for the entire trip. CLICK HERE if you want to crunch my numbers.

Friday, May 22, 2009

More Flats (Day 18)

I thought I'd make it to the New Mexico Border, but I ran into another bike problem that delayed that state crossing. Somewhere outside of the town of Bowie, my rear trailer tube got somewhere between 25-30 holes in it. After using up almost all my patches and half a role of garden-hose-repair tape I borrowed from a kindly gas station attendant, the thing still wouldn't hold any air. I finally managed to mend my other tube and was back up and running again.

After wasting all that time trying to fix my tire, I was soon running out of daylight. But I did manage to bike another 13 miles to the next town of San Simon. I then spent the next couple hours hanging out at the one and only truck stop, eating half-day-old pizza and watching Bill O'Reilly on the dining area's TV set.

I cycled around 39 miles today. CLICK HERE to see the boring details.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Thing? (Day 17)

Yes, after reading and hearing about it for days and days... I finally laid eyes on THE THING? The proliferation of billboards advertising the "Mystery of the Desert" certainly piqued my curiosity as I pedaled closer. The idea of this odd and mysterious "museum" nestled inside an old farm shed hearkened me back to the days of the 1960s. That was a time when tourist traps like this dotted the highways all across America, as families loaded their station wagons with Samsonite suitcases for their two-week vacation on the road. The constant barrage of brightly colored billboards advertising their modest attraction would help keep the kids focused on nagging their parents to pull over. And by the time they reached the much talked-about exit, mom and dad would be equally curious as well. How could they resist at that point?

So when I reached Exit 322, home to THE THING, I was struck with nostalgia and intrigue. The entrance to the "museum" reminded me of the sideshow attractions hidden away on some side alley in Coney Island. And the price was just right ... one dollar for adults and 75¢ for children!

It was hard to get an answer from the man behind the counter what exactly the "thing" is... even after going through the museum. But the only way you can even get a sense of what the "thing" is, is to drive or bike your way to Dragoon, AZ and see it for yourself.

It was a rather hot day today -- over 100 degrees -- and after going 12 miles of solid uphill action, I was mighty gross and sweaty. But, I felt ALIVE! I only biked 40 miles, but considering the heat, the hills, and the time i spent with THE THING, I'd say it was a decent ride today. CLICK HERE to see where those miles went.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Break in Benson (Day 16)

I've decided to take a day off from the biking. The idea came to me when I found a Motel 6 in Benson, AZ for only 32 bucks a night. (Cheap!)

On my way to the Hotel, I stopped at a mini-mart in the small town of Pantano. While waiting to pay the cashier for my bottle of Mountain Dew Code Red, I couldn't help but overhear the conversation this young lady was having on her cell phone. I didn't get the whole story, but from what I could tell, she was discussing some common "friend" who was currently on trial. She said stuff like "Don't talk to any lawyers, 'cause their just tryin' to dig up any dirt they can find on him," and "They say he shot her twice, but I don't believe nuthin' they say." I really wanted to inquire about the story, but figured I should just give her her distance.

Then it was off to Benson. Since it was getting unbearably hot, I decided to actually bike the last leg shirtless (the ladies on I-10 sure got a treat that afternoon). While hanging outside of a Taco Bell waiting for check-in time at the Motel 6, an independent truck driver named Ed stopped to ask questions about me and my bike. He said he admired my courage and my sense of adventure. In return, I told him how I admired the stamina and strong-will of independent truck drivers (especially during last year's gas crisis). He simply waved his hand and said that Jesus provides him with whatever he needs to make it in the world. Then he asked me if he could buy me lunch, or at least a Coke. I thanked him but graciously declined his offers.

So, I've now biked over 700 miles so far on this trip. And more miles are to come. CLICK HERE to see a full-color map.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cycling Through Tucson (Day 14)

Made my way to Tucson, Arizona... a pretty laid-back, friendly town. When I was in search of directions, everyone was kind and helpful... including a fellow biker who looked like Alan Hale's cousin and said that I was "inspirational!" He also noted that both of us were wearing yellow tops with black short and that we looked like "a pair of bumblebees!"

I biked around 42 miles today. Not bad considering the time i spent lounging at the Brooklyn Pizza Shop. CLICK HERE to see the circles and zigzags I made in Tucson.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cycling to See Ostriches (Day 13)

Well, it's good to be out of the Phoenix area and back on the open road. It's been pretty flat and you can really lean into those pedals and go, go, go!

The highlight of the day most certainly had to be Rooster Cogburn's Ostrich Ranch. I highly recommend stopping by if you find yourself on I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson. For 5 bucks you can get really get up and close with the massive birds.

Next to the emu, the ostrich is my favorite flightless bird. Ostriches are the largest living birds in the world and can run at speeds of up to 40 MPH. Plus, they can live to be 50 to 75 years old.

After leaving Cogburn's, I relaxed at a nearby DQ where I met a cool couple on their way back from camping in the Coronado National Forest. We talked about my walk across the US, my biking trip, and other adventures. The guy told me about his brother-in-law who kayaked from Vancouver to Alaska and how a pair of legally-blind friends want to cycle across the USA on a tandem bike. I guess that would be a case of the blind leading the blind.

I cycled a little over 60 miles today. I was able to crank out the miles after I left the DQ by the ostrich farm. I did nearly 17 miles in just one hour. It helped that I had a nice, smooth frontage road to cycle on with little bumps and very few cars. CLICK HERE to see where I have gone.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Behold! The $100,000 Tumbleweed! (Day 12)

With a mended bike, I'm finally back on track with this cycling venture. I'm now heading southeast, paralleling Interstate-10 towards Tucson. I would have made a little more progress today if I didn't spend nearly 2 hours in search of the world's most expensive tumbleweed. I heard about it from the awesome Roadside America, and I was determined to find this exuberant and elusive tumbleweed structure.

It's starting to get hot down here in the southwest. I can tell, because my bottles of Gatorade go from ice cold to being on the brink of boiling within a few minutes after being purchased.

I biked 42 glorious miles today, and I enjoyed 27 of them. CLICK HERE to fulfill all your mapping dreams.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Troubles Are A Brewin' (Day 8-11)

Well, my bike got sick! Very sick!

While making some good progress on I-10 and on the verge of breaking my highest mileage in a day -- my rear derailleur went SNAP-CLANK-CLICK-ZIP-KA-PING! Suddenly, I found myself outside of the small town of Buckeye, AZ with an out-of-commission bicycle and feelings of despair. This became another opportunity to yell many curses loudly into the sky and at my bike.

I called the bike shop back in LA to tell them what happened and they seemed rather unsympathetic. Through the help of my friend Jeff, I was able to locate a bike shop about 16-17 miles away in the town of Goodyear. I called them up and they graciously came out to meet me at a nearby Burger King. After a brief inspection of my bike, they concluded I needed a new derailleur, cable, and a derailleur hanger -- which had to be special ordered.

So, I've been sitting on my ass for the last three days, waiting for the bike shop in LA to send the hanger to the bike shop here in Arizona.

See? This is the problem. When I have to rely on mechanical devices... they end up breaking. When I walked across the county, the only "mechanical device" I had to rely on was my backpack straps. That was about it.


So, over the last four days, I advanced about 110 miles -- totaling around 430 miles so far. CLICK HERE to study it up.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Folks You Meet in Buckeye (Day 8)

While hanging out at a Burger King waiting for some bicycle repair men to arrive (I will elaborate more on that in the next entry), I met a self proclaimed nomad. I don't know what his name was because he kept changing it... it was either Bill or Joe or Martin (he referred to himself by all three names).

While he and I sat on a bench outside the BK for nearly two hours, here are some of the amazing (and somewhat doubtful) claims he made:

• He walked across the country three times.
• He hasn't had a fixed address since he was 14.
• He owned three flower shops in Southern California which were fronts to launder money for the mob.
• He spent 21 days in a Wichita city jail for walking on a toll highway.
• Simon and Garfunkel stole one of his poems and put the lyrics in their song "Homeward Bound"
• He lived under an Atlantic City boardwalk for 8 years.
• When working for a 7-11 in Compton, the Bloods and the Crips used to accompany him to the bank when he had to make the weekly deposit.
• He has over 40 "godchildren" all across the country.
• He got tasered by the cops three times in Louisiana and simply pulled the wires off and walked away.
• He took three trains from Philadelphia to Atlantic City just to punch a guy in the jaw.
• One of his poems got sold to someone for over $30,000.
• He is the only survivor from his platoon in the Vietnam War -- all the others have died under "mysterious circumstances."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Grand Canyon State (Day 7)

I am finally in ARIZONA! I thought I'd never get here! Hooray for me!

After crossing the border, I had another substantial hill to climb -- not as bad as the Patton Museum lady indicated, but it gave me a decent workout.

After passing through the town of Quartzsite, my plan was to get off of I-10 and veer north onto Route 60, mainly because there looked like there were no services for 90 miles on I-10. However, after my friend Andy did a little internet search, we learned that there was one small gas station about 30 miles from Quartzsite (on Vicksburg Rd.) and then another gas station about 50 miles from there. So, I figured I could handle 50 miles without any services.

One bad thing was that when I called the gas station on Vickburg Road, the lady there said that their place was 5 to 10 miles south of the Interstate. (That meant another 10-20 miles tacked onto this leg of my biking trip.) When I asked her whether there were any other services closer to the highway, she categorically and cheerfully said "no." This news depressed me, until I reached the Vicksburg exit and discovered that she was flat-out lying. There were two gas stations, a mini-mart and a cafe, all within a few hundred yards of the exit. I cheered aloud -- HOORAY! -- until I discovered a small candy bar cost $1.09 -- BOO!

After biking nearly 60 miles, I camped at the top of a small hill in the desert. CLICK HERE FOR MAP DETAILS.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Still Cycling (Day 6)

After a good 60-mile ride yesterday, I managed to get in some decent miles again today, making it to the town of Blythe -- my last stop in California! After discovering another flat tire on my rear trailer, I had to mend my tube in the middle of the desert under the blazing sun. (I uttered many curses into the sky.)

While cycling on Interstate-10, I passed the same State Trooper three times as he was pulling cars and buses over left and right (well, only on the right). This meant every time I had to pass them, I had to veer onto an actual highway lane... which is dane-jer-us!

While lounging at a Starbucks in Blythe, I was approached by a fellow cyclist -- a German man named Hans, who is cycling all the way from Los Angeles to Boston. I was mighty impressed. And even though I just got through walking across the US, I have to admit, I felt like a wimp next to this clearly virile and healthy man. Even though his blog is mostly in German, you should CHECK IT OUT, for the cool pictures alone. This is what he had to say about our encounter:
Allerdings machte mir die die Fahrt durch die Wueste bei der Hitze zum Ende hin schwer zu schaffen und ich war froh mein Ziel um 15 Uhr erreicht zu haben. Bei Starbucks traf ich noch Mark (The walking fool ) der im letzten Jahr Coast to Coast zu Fuss bewaeltigt hatte. siehe :

I did a little under 40 miles today -- CLICK HERE for map action!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

His Name was Patton (Day 5)

Getting closer to the Arizona border... should be there tomorrow! After about 30 miles of uphill cycling, I went to the Patton Museum to relax and learn. While there, I chatted with a bunch of the volunteers about the museum and southeast California. They gave me the lowdown of what to see and do when I get to the town of Blythe tomorrow. "There's a bowling alley" one big guy eagerly said.

He was quickly corrected by his coworker, a young mousy lady behind the counter. "Naw, they shut that down last year," she bellowed back at him. The big guy then shrugged, having no alternate suggestions. I then left the museum to bike another 20 miles to a cafe in Desert Center for a chicken-fried steak dinner.

Considering I had a big hill at the beginning of the day, I made decent progress on this fifth day. I biked a little over 60 miles -- making my total so far just over 222 miles. CLICK HERE to see all the exciting details.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What, No Cycle? (Day 4)

Well, I started off the day with all intentions of biking into the desert, but after a small spill on the bike and a slight lack of energy, I decided to chill out at a hotel for the night and regroup a bit.

I went to Tri A Bike in Palm Desert in search of a spare tube for my trailer tire, but they had nothing in the right size. But they did have plenty of advice and encouragement for me -- which was free -- and they also sold me some power bars -- which cost me around ten bucks.

I ended up biking 14 miles from the dried river bed in Rancho Mirage to the motel in Indio. CLICK HERE if you find this paltry distance fascinating and you want to see details.