Spiritual Warriorship

To be a spiritual warrior,
one must have a broken heart;
without a broken heart
and the sense of tenderness and vulnerability
that is in one’s self and all others,
your warriorship is untrustworthy.
~ Chögyam Trungpa, Shambhala.

I just recently came across this quote and found it so beautiful I have hung on to it.  I wonder when I read it, however, if having a broken heart automatically makes you a spiritual warrior, or if there’s more to it.  I say this because while I know my soul has grown strong and healed a lot in the past two years, but at times it shakes like it would like to hide under the bed.  I try to hide this by hardening myself to emotion a lot of times.  I avoid anything that will make me feel something, be it books, movies, or songs.  Alternatively, things that shouldn’t make me cry will leave me sobbing brokenheartedly.  My mom tells me I have a gentle heart and that’s why I’m affected by things like this.  I don’t like showing my emotion over certain subjects but I also used to cry at the drop of hat when my heart was hurting.  I used to be embarrassed by that, as if there’s something wrong with crying.  I know that there isn’t and that’s just who I am, but I’ll be honest that it doesn’t mean I don’t still keep my distance from emotional subjects.  So have I become a warrior?

Two years ago today I said goodbye to one of the most important people in my life.  In the end of August 2012 my Grandma passed out at my Aunt Cathy’s house.  Upon further testing it was discovered that she had a tumor on her brain.  A surgery was scheduled to remove what they could of the mass.  The day or so before the surgery I Skype-chatted with her, in case things didn’t go well in surgery.  Up to this point I didn’t REALLY realize the seriousness of the situation.  After surgery my mom called me right away to let me know that Grandma has pulled through it and they had gotten almost all of the tumor.  The doctors told her that she had at least 6 months to live.  Six months seems like it could have been forever but for me it might as well have been the next day.  To this day I honestly don’t know why I didn’t call her every single day after that to talk all day long.

 I got the phone call on Friday September 26, 2012 that Grandma had stopped eating and communicating and basically if I wanted to see her before the end I had like 12 – 24 hours to get to Illinois.  I of course booked the first flight I could get and afford to take.  The next morning my boss drove me to the airport (so thankful) and I landed two hours later in Illinois.  My Aunt Kim picked me up and we headed to the nursing home where Grandma was being cared for.  As we walked hand in hand towards the building she warned me that Grandma looked a little different.  All I could notice was that all the trees in Illinois had changed colors already and in New York we were still green.  We walked down the hallway and into my Grandma’s room.  I actually wasn’t sure what to expect and remember feeling shy and slightly terrified (not of her, but of the reality of what was happening).  Kim told me that Grandma’s skin gets dry so I could rub lotion in for her, and then she went for a coffee, leaving us alone.  I couldn’t even bring myself to look at her face, I was so in shock.  I took her hand and started rubbing lotion into them.  They were so soft, just like I always remembered and immediately I started to cry silently.

After a minute of just watching me, Grandma said ”No, no, no, don’t cry.  You’ll make me cry and I don’t want to be sad about this.”  I said “But, I LOVE you, I love you!”  Couldn’t she understand?  I had to cry, she was leaving me and I was never ever going to see her again.  I don’t believe in heaven so when she was gone we would never talk again.  She was quiet for another few minutes as tears poured down my face.  She finally stopped me rubbing lotion in, and squeezed my hand.  ”I want you to be happy, Maria.  Just be happy in your life.”  Happy?  How could she think I would ever be happy again?

I was exhausted after a night of no sleep so when Grandma said she might nap I crawled into her hospital bed with her with a blanket under my head for a pillow, cuddled up to her and cried and cried.  She reached over and patted my arm in a way that was so familiar it hurt my heart.  I fell asleep, eventually and woke up a little while later.  Grandma had decided she was going to eat some food and the nurse was going to clean her up a little.  Kim and I went to the nearby nail salon to buy some pink polish so I could paint Grandma’s nails, something we had always shared.  When we came back she had a ton of food in front of her and was eating it all.  I got to work filing and painting her nails, and then my nails so we would match.  While I was painting her nails she kept saying things like how beautiful she would look in her casket, to my horror (I was still trying to deny that this lively, chatty woman was dying).  She told me about her guardian angel, a large black woman with orange and purple colors.  Today, I have a changed view of guardian angels and thinking back to this I am so thankful to her angel for letting us have that whole day together, making a few last memories.

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My sister arrived shortly after this and I gave her some time to spend with Grandma.  After this my mom arrived and we went to the cafe to sit and have lunch.  The other big news of the day was that our cousin, Matt, was proposing to his girlfriend, (now wife!) Valerie that night, so we were all waiting to hear about that.  He had a big romantic thing planned in front of the big fountains in Chicago and it was supposed to be perfectly beautiful.

Back in the room Grandma seemed to be living it up, eating Chinese food, bratwurst, beer, cheese and crackers, nuts, jello anything she wanted she could have and eat it she did.  We (my sister, mom, aunts and cousin David and his girlfriend (now fiance!) Cheri,)  all sat around with her giggling about stories from when she was younger.  The subject changed from shaving, smoking pot and terrible cooking.  The news arrived that Val had said yes, as we assumed she would, so we (the cousins) were planning to get together in Chicago (about an hour away) to celebrate with Matt, Val and their friends!  Again, today, I wish I had stayed back and spent time with Grandma but my sister has repeatedly told me that she knows Grandma wanted us all to be together.  It was the first time in twelve years that the four of us had all gotten together at the same time.

That night was a bit of drunken blur, memories coming in at interesting times: cheers to Grandma! Crying at the dogs in the humane society window watching us walk past, and getting sick in a gas station (I think) and being pissed that I didn’t redeem myself after that last time I drank with David and got too drunk haha.  It was a beautiful night full of a lot of love, tears of joy and sadness and hugs all around mostly from me.  My cousins like to joke that they have no doubt of how much I love them because after two beers I insist on hugging them and telling them I LOOVEEE YOU SOOO MUUUUCCHH over and over again.  Hey, it could be worse.

The next morning we slept in a little, hungover, and then drove back to the nursing home.  That day Grandma was not awake.  She was in a lot of pain and not conscious.  It was a day spent facing the inevitable and watching fall leaves blow outside her window.  That night, sleeping on my Aunt Cathy’s couch I cried myself to sleep, knowing I had to go back to New York the next day and it would be literally the last time I ever saw my Grandma ever again.

Bright and early we headed to the nursing home.  Again, she was not awake at all, she was getting a lot of morphine for pain and was breathing loudly and laboriously.  At 11:30 the pastor arrived and we started chatting with her.  During a pause in talking we noticed that the harsh breathing had gone silent.  We all stared at Grandma waiting for the next breath.  5 second of silence and another breath.  Silence.  Silence.  Silence.  Another breath.  She opened her eyes, her beautiful blue eyes, that always sparkled when she laughed, but there was nothing in them.  It was very clear, like nothing in real life had ever been clear to me before, that her soul wasn’t in her body.  We all started comforting her and everyone was telling her it was okay to go and be at peace.  I had my face in her neck and was screaming inside my head for her to please not leave me, please please not yet.  Was it selfish of me?  Probably.  But I can’t change how I felt.  Finally the breathing just stopped, she was gone.  11:42 AM.  I had spent all weekend crying silently, not wanting to upset her, but now that she was gone, she was really gone and I couldn’t stop the loud sobbing, I couldn’t even breath.  I honestly thought I would choke from crying and not being able to breath.  I didn’t want to let go of her hands and her neck, because she was still my warm Grandma.  If I let go, the next time she would be cold.  As my other cousins arrived we sat around Grandma’s body and told our favorite memories of her. i I eventually had to leave to go to the airport and return to New York.  I was given a moment alone with her and while I was hugging her a nurse walked in to pick things up.  I remember the fury I felt with her at being interrupted saying goodbye to my Grandmother.  She couldn’t know, obviously, she was just doing her job, but I will never forget the level of anger at her I had.  In retrospect, I know I was projecting my anger and pain on this nurse, who thankfully, realized what was happening and left.

My mom and sister drove me to the airport and I cried all the way through security, in the bathroom and onto the plain.   Flying home there was a full moon outside my window the entire way.  I landed and took the bus from the airport to Grand Central, where my friend Rachel met me and hugged me while I lost my shit in the middle of the sidewalk at 11pm.  I have never been so grateful for a friend to just hold me and cry with me.  I eventually took the train home and went to bed.

The following week I was a zombie.  I would wake up crying, go through work motions, and then cry in the shower, not eating and cry myself to a dead sleep at night.  I had no idea what to do with myself with the knowledge that I could no longer call my Grandma up and hear her voice.  Everything was dull colored and depressing.  No more visiting her in Florida, watching her flirt with her church friends, show off her new bathing suits, enjoy chocolates together and hold her hand.

That weekend was a three day weekend and I had to get away.  I had to have a place where I could just sit and stare.  So I went to Rachels.  Friday night I arrived at Rachels around 8:30 or so and we went to sleep at 9. I woke up with a start around 2:30 am.  Now, Rachel has a cat named Raskol, and he is….rather noisy.  I knew I needed to get back to sleep before Raskol realized someone in the bedroom was awake and began his nightly antics.  I clicked shuffle play on my ipod and put on my headphones and of course the song that came on was ”I Will Always Love You”  by Whitney Houston, a version which my grandparents would often sing to each other (Grandpa badly, Grandma adorably) in the car when we would visit when we were younger.  I changed the song immediately and lay back down.  I was suddenly overcome with the knowledge that if I didn’t sit up RIGHT THAT SECOND I was going to have a panic attack.  I sat up and took off my headphones.  My head was spinning, like when you’ve had too much to drink, despite having nothing to drink, and I couldn’t see a damn thing.  Despite this odd blindness, I knew without a doubt, 100% that my Grandma and Grandpa were standing together at the end of Rachels bed, smiling.  I couldn’t SEE them I tried and tried to rub the stars out of my eyes, but I couldn’t see anything, but I knew it was them and I could feel their love, I could feel their smiles.  After a few minutes I laid back down and instantly fell back asleep.

The next morning when I woke up I felt like a new person.  Or rather, the old me.  I could smile, the colors were bright again and the sun was shining joyfully.  To this day, I don’t know what happened that night, like exactly.  But I do know that it was real and I know it because of the drastic emotional change in me the next morning.  I woke up feeling so loved and happy that I don’t even want to try to make it logical.  I still don’t know what I believe but I believe in Grandma and Grandpa at the foot of the bed.  Since then many things have happened to continue my belief that I am being watched over by my Grandma daily in many situations, where bad things could have happened and should have, but didn’t.

This brings me to my initial topic:  being a spiritual warrior.  I know it was a long way to get here but continue to bear with me please.

I spent the following year asking myself what my Grandma had meant by ”be happy”.  Wasn’t I happy?  I loved my job so much, the kids I cared for were my heart and soul every day.  I had made friends and had a steady paycheck.  So what would she say that for?  I was happy, right?  As time went by I realized that I was not in fact Happy.  I was happy but not with a capital H.  I was satisfied, comfortable and content.  But my soul wasn’t singing every day the way I think it was supposed to be.  As I began wondering what I needed to be doing to bring myself that happiness the idea of the bike tour was presented to me.  When I officially started making plans with Tom, the man I was supposed to tour with, the excitement I felt for the future, for the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted and rely on no one but my self, proved to me that I needed more from my life.

When I would try to explain this to people many didn’t understand how the idea of going ”for a bike ride” was going to help me grow up, or fulfill myself and I had to just let it go.  Not everyone is made to understand.  I set out looking for a SOMETHING with the label happy on it.  If it was a place, a person, anything but I knew it was physical.

Looking back in reflection on the first leg of my bike tour I have come to a realization.  I couldn’t be looking for SOMEthing to make me happy.  I had to be looking for ME to make me happy.  I needed to learn to stop relying on other people to make me feel worthy, to feel loved, to feel needed.  When I started to need MYSELF every day to feel worthy, to feel able and needed, things began to change in me.  No one but me was going to get me up this hill, no one but me was going to push me through this wind, no one but me was going to set up my tent, talk with hosts and strangers, and no one but me was going to hear the wind whistling by me as I blew down the hills I, ALONE, had worked so hard to climb.  Through all of this my Grandmother showed herself, in the yellow butterfly that has followed me through from Texas all the way to San Francisco, in the orbs that will show up in moments on photos when it couldn’t be the sun glare, in moments of great emotion, like when I first saw the majestic Saguaro Cacti on the mountainsides heading into Phoenix.  She is with me all the time, I talk to her all the time and I definitely pray for her help when I need her.  I also told her she was ruining my makeup this morning as I cried while writing this blog.  I know she has put me here at this place at this moment to further understand how I need to be strong on my own.  Yes, I still have moments of breakdowns, when my heart longs to hear her and hug my family so badly that it hurts and I feel short of breath with wanting.  But I also know that however long it takes me to heal from the grief, I can never thank her enough for giving me the push and confidence down the road to finding myself and my soul.  I think I can say I am a spiritual warrior, because to admit my weakness has to be a strength needed to be mighty.  And I am a small biker in the world but I am learning to be big and strong in my heart and soul, and that’s a step, isn’t it?

I heard this song during a movie this weekend and it really hit me powerfully.  Here’s the link, I’m sure you’ll know why.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YLEaRPffEg

January 2010, Maria and Grandma

January 2010, Maria and Grandma

Phoenix to L.A.: Holy Shit It’s Hot and Let’s Make Big Decisions PART ONE

Where did we leave off?  Phoenix.

Monday morning dawned bright and early, and hot as hellllll!  I had packed my bags up the night before so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it in the morning.  When I came downstairs Trish was making me a delicious breakfast!  John, Trish, Destiny, Scruffy and I ate breakfast together outside.  Afterwards I went to put on my shoes and remembered that I had taken the cleats off of them so I could go hiking.  This was one of the things I liked about my shoes, they’re versatile.  However, I had lost one of the screws I need to put the cleats back on.  John rustled up a screw that fit alright thankfully.  I loaded up my bike and said my goodbyes to everyone!  Trish got on her bike (she was going to bike with me for about half an hour) and we were off! I was heading to Wickenburg, AZ which was about 40 miles away.  It was supposed to be relatively flat most of the way which was extremely grateful for.

By about 9:30 the temperature was already soaring in the 90’s and I was sweating profusely.  The water I had frozen the night before had all melted and was hot in my bottles.  I reached my mid-point around 1130 where the highway turns north up to Wickenburg. There was one spot where I was able to refill my bottles, although the owner of the establishment really didn’t want to let me, but I think he knew the alternative for me was bleak. There is NOTHING between that spot and Wickenburg.  I decided to rest there a moment to eat the delicious sandwhich Trish had made for me for lunch.  =)  While I waited I called a church in Wickenburg and they told me I could camp on their property.  I felt much better knowing I had somewhere I would be able to rest that night.  It’s always a big stress off my shoulders knowing I won’t have to panic when I get to town over where to camp.

A few miles down the road I found an old tractor repair shop and went to use their restroom.  Two big dogs got up and were growling and barking and were just plain not happy to see me.  I talked to them calmly through the whole ordeal and just plunked myself down on the bench outside the shop.  (There wasn’t anyone opening the door so I figured I would rest in the shade for a moment before continuing on).  While I sat there the doors slowly starting subtly sniffing me from afar like I think they thought I wasn’t noticing them sniffing and getting closer and closer.  Eventually the tails started to wag and the y approached me nervously.  I put my hand out and slowly and the smelled my hair and then decided I was alright and would I pet them please?  We sat for a few minutes before I decided I had to move on.  They followed me around back to the bathroom and were waiting for me when I came out!

After that the road was pretty empty for the rest of the day.  It was so so hot.  I think it was 97 that day.  To some people that’s not bad but I’m not used to the heat and it always has affected me and this day was no different.  I would pour water on myself and be totally dry in minutes.  I finally rolled into Wickenburg and spotted a Shell station.  I went into fill up my water bottles and immediately was so lightheaded and cold I knew I was going to faint.  I sat down in the middle of the store and everything was fuzzy and I could feel my heart beating in my ears.  It’s not a pleasant feeling, let me tell you.  That was when I turned my phone on and saw a voicemail from the church where I had planned to camp, they were only a mile away.  They told me that they actually could NOT permit me to camp there but that there was a fairground about 6 or so miles away.  I knew, KNEW that there was no way I was going to make it any farther than a mile.  The girl at the Shell station overhead the entire conversation with the church director and when I hung up the phone and panicked she says ”you know you could just camp out back here if you’d like”.

I was totally floored because it had never occurred to me that she would let me do that.  I agreed because I had no other options and she was nice, very good company.  I sat in the Shell station for the next few hours because the sun was still blazing hot and there was no shade whatsoever.  Finally about 6:30 I went out and set up my tent and then went back inside because it was still SO FREAKING HOT.

Have you ever seen a Sprite this big and only for this price?

Have you ever seen a Sprite this big and only for this price?

That night I slept very strangely.  The gas station is a 24 hour stop so there are a lot of lights on.  I kept waking up and thinking it was morning because it was so bright outside.  Finally in the morning I was up and off because I only had 30 miles to go that day.  I was going to a town called Aguila.  I had to go a little early because the wind was forecasted to kick up in the afternoon.  It was another day of flat biking and the heat wasn’t as bad as it had been the day before.  When I got into Aguila I passed a big group of tourists with their van following them, which was cool.  I was directed to a little church down the road so I headed over there.  No one home.  A man across the street waved me over to his yard and said he used to sell bikes and I was welcome to camp on his property.  So I sat with him and his friend for a few hours chatting.  The neighbor took me to see his horses down the road, which was super cool.

 

Hello Pony.

Hello Pony.

When I got back to where I was camping that night I passed a girl who had seen me when I was at the grocery store buying a banana.   She invited me in for a chat and introduced me to her friend who lived in the town I would be stopping in the next day.  I asked him if I could stay on his lawn and he said sure.  He told me that he worked in the local grocery store in that town (Wenden) and when I got to town I should stop there for directions to his house.

That night I slept…oddly.  Every time I would move the dog on the fence I was up against would bark, thinking I was an intruder and then the roosters would start going off.  Around 2am they wouldn’t stop until morning.  In the morning I packed up and departed.  It was great, windless riding on flat land all day.  I rolled into the town and stopped for a bathroom at a little shop.  They told me there was a campground less than a mile away I could use, across from the local library.  I thanked the women and continued on my way to the grocery store.  I then met the young man, who didn’t actually work at the grocery store. He was hanging around out front.  This should have been my first red flag, but it never occurred to me to be suspicious.  He told me he liked to just sit and people watch.  I said that I had heard of a campground and that I might just go there.  He said that I could do that but it was rather dangerous in that area because of rattlesnakes.  I said okay, well I think I’ll head over to hang out at the library.  (It was noon and 100 degrees out, I was not going to people watch under the hot Arizona sun for 6 hours).  He nodded and said okay, but there’s a mountain you have to get up to get there.  I stared at him.  ”Really?”  He nodded again.  I decided I wasn’t going up a mountain in the hot, hot sun so I guess I’d just chill there.  So we sat there for about an hour, literally, just staring at people driving by.  I asked the guy, I believe his name was Rene, if I could charge my phone at his house.  He said he didn’t have any electricity but that his sister lived next door.  (Red flag #2) He continued to say that his parents had given him the house as a fixer-upper for free as long as he repaired it.  We decided to go to his house.  It was close and as I drew closer I started getting truly apprehensive.  The trailer had no doors, no windows and no furniture or anything.  NOTHING.  There was one chair in the house and apparently a bed in the far room.

As I sat in the one chair I started texting Kerry about how I was nervous.  As I’m typing that out Rene calls to me:

”So, do you have a boyfriend?”  I’m immediately on alert.

Me: No

Him: I see.  Do you do one night stands?

Me: Uh no. (texting furiously to Kerry)

Eventually he goes to the far bedroom and falls asleep.  I set my tent up outside to establish that I am in no way planning to sleep inside the trailer.  Five o’clock rolls around and a woman and seventy children pull in to the property next door.  I decide to ask if she is Rene’s sister and traipse over.  Immediately I am met with a look of suspicion and an attitude of irritation and annoyance.

Me:  Hi…are you his sister? (pointing to the trailer where Rene is sleeping)

Girl:  Whose sister?

Me: …the guy next door?  He told me you were his sister

Girl:  …There isn’t supposed to be anyone there, that property is abandoned and I don’t have any brothers.

Me: *horror* uh…okay… (My mind begins racing as I decide what I should do next.  Obviously this woman doesn’t want to help me at all but I need to find out what is going on).  Well he told me that you were his sister, do you know who owns the property?

Girl:  Yes I do, I was just going to head over there and ask them what was happening.  I will let you know.

Me: Okay I’ll…just… go back…to my tent and WAIT.

Girl: Yeah, you do that.

I walk back to my tent and am texting furiously with Kerry trying to decide if I need to leave immediately or if this is all one big misunderstanding.  My heart is racing and I’m watching the sun begin to sink.  I know that the campground is still an option but if there’s a mountain to get up then I’m truly concerned about reaching it before sundown.  Not five minutes after I sit back down the girl returns and says ”I figured out what you were saying, that’s my brother but we’re not close and he’s not supposed to be here.  That isn’t his property and there isn’t supposed to be anyone on the land.”

I’m thinking to myself what the hell, you just told me that you didn’t’ have any brothers.  So I approach the fence separating us and I say “Okay, as a woman to another woman, what would you do if you were in my position?”

She backs away and immediately says ”Oh no, I am not going to get in between whatever is going on between you guys”

I’m like ”There is nothing going on between us!  We met yesterday”  Like, why the hell can’t this girl understand that I’m the victim in the entire situation.

Again she repeats that she wants nothing to do with anything going on in this ”agreement”.  I go back to my tent and think it over.  I also have been texting with Trish who poses this question for me:  “Do you feel safe?”  Which at this point I do not feel safe and I don’t trust this guy.  This is finally enough for me to realize that I need to get the hell out of there. I have never packed my tent and belongings so fast in my entire life.  All while trying to be as quiet as possible so I don’t wake up this guy, who is apparently still asleep in the trailer.  I pedal away as fast as I can, thanking my stars that the campground is apparently 12 minutes biking away.  The more distance I put between myself and the trailer the better I am feeling.  I also realize that I’m on completely flat ground.  I’m biking through a beautiful grove of trees and the ground is flat and the landscape is lovely.  NO. MOUNTAIN.  I begin to realize that this creep ass of a guy had been planning from the very beginning to get me alone and do who the hell knows what.  I arrived at the campground and was greeted by a wonderful woman named Sally who invited me in to watch television with her.  She also told me that there isn’t a huge rattlesnake problem at the campground because they don’t like the gravel.  Another lie the guy told me.

The lesson I took away from this terrifying experience was STOP MAKING EXCUSES FOR EVERYONE.  My issue had been that I didn’t want to insult this guy in case it turned out he really was on hard times and was repairing the trailer.  But I kept telling myself that and ignoring the fact that I was FEELING that he was not right.  The feeling that says something is a little odd and I’m not overreacting.  I learned this very, very important lesson, I feel like, in the best way possible.  Where the point truly was made without me getting hurt or killed.  From now on I’m kind of an asshole to any men that say anything that I find even remotely inappropriate.

The following morning I departed for Brenda and biked all day through beautiful land.  I passed lots of saguaro cactus that were flowering and adorable.

Saguaro! =)

Saguaro! =)

More Saguaro!!

More Saguaro!!

Look at those adorable flowers

Look at those adorable flowers

I arrived in the tiny town of Brenda around 1pm.  I had been told by many people to stop for lunch here so I did.  Brenda is a tiny community on Highway 60 that is said to be a ghost town on the west side and was a popular tourist attraction in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.  It was named after the daughter of a couple in 1928, Brenda.  Interesting enough, I knew none of this until after I had already left.  Today it’s a town mostly supported by the RV parks and local grocery/deli (which was incredibly delicious).  However I was met with no after no after no when I asked if I could CAMP at these RV camps.  Tents are not allowed.  When I mentioned this to the girls who run the store they told me I could just go right outside of town and camp on the public land without any problems.  So I hung out in the restaurant all day.  As the sun began to sink I said goodbye and biked off to where the entrance to this publically fenced area of land was.  When I got there, however, I discovered that the fence was closed and locked.  I was not going to cross a closed and locked fence.  So I called the girls and asked if they could offer any advice.  They told me to come back and I could just camp on the store property which was AMAZINGLY generous of them.  I am very very grateful to them for this.    I apparently camped right next to the ghosty area.  I was in a graveled area that clearly had been used as camping area previously and I felt very safe.  I walked down and watched the sun set with relief at another safe night of sleep.

Brenda, TX sunset

Brenda, TX sunset

The next day before departing I checked Couchsurfing to see if there was a host in Quartzsite, a town that I had hoped to stop in.  I couldnt’ get a hold of anyone but passed an interesting page about a guy who was walking across America through Quartzsite.  So I had another day of absolutely beautiful scenery while I was biking.  Like after the difficult days of mountains I couldn’t believe how lucky I was getting with beautiful, relatively flat lands.  It was beautiful.

Incredible

Incredible

Sometime in the morning I biked past someone walking on the same side of the road as I was but in the opposite direction.  We nodded at each other and a split second after I passed him I knew he was the guy from Couchsurfing.  I turned around and went back.   I asked if he was on there and he said yes and introduced himself at Nate.  We stood there talking for about half an hour sharing stories and laughing.  Nate is walking to Washington D.C. to raise awareness on the way that veterans are being treated after active duty.  Often I think of Nate  and how he is walking and if he walks then I can bike because damn, the desert is HOT.  (If you’re interested in reading his blog his website is http://www.NateWalks.com)

Nate and I talking about bears

Nate and I talking about bears

It was blazingly hot, as usual.  I had been biking early mornings in mid 90 degree weather and was strangely entertained when I realized that hair on my arms was turning golden from being in the sun all day every day.  (Don’t judge me it was fun).

Look, gold!

Look, gold!

When I passed through Quartzsite (where I stopped for lunch) I called the host in Blythe who I had called a week before and e-mailed only to realize the e-mail never sent.  I knew I was going to make it there that day and wanted to confirm I had a place to camp.  I finally got ahold of them and was told to come on by.  I wasn’t sure at all what the situation would be like but that was the plan!  The closer I got to California the more excited I was getting.  As I crossed a big checkpoint to get into California I was, again, overwhelmed by a feeling of great accomplishment.  I had made it to 4 states!  I was in California!  It seemed very appropriate that I should enter California and immediately see everything green, growing, alive and water everywhere.  The Colorado River greeted me prior to entering the state and after 3 months of traveling through drought and dusty states I was ready.

'Nuff said

‘Nuff said

 

After I crossed into California I missed the turn off that would take me away from the interstate, which is illegal to bike on in California.  I had one mile to bike before the next exit and I hoped the entire time I wouldn’t get stopped and ticketed (although I also hoped that if I did they would be understanding).  I took my exit and headed up to the B&B Bait Shop which was where my hosts were apparently located.  While heading there I knew that the mountains I were seeing in front of me were called the Big Maria Mountains.  I had been looking forward to biking near them for as long as I had been mapping this section of my trip out and as I realized I was biking directly towards them I got more excited.

Big Maria Mountains!

Big Maria Mountains!

I got to the Bait shop and pulled in.  Immediately a man named Wayne walked up, welcomed me, told me he’d gotten drunk waiting for me and here have 6 beers on me.  This seemed glorious after a nice hot day of biking, after all it was about 5pm.  Wayne showed me into the bait shop and introduced me to the people working there and a few of the people hanging out around the shop.  He then walked me to the pond in the back of the property and said that most of the cyclists would camp on the dock there.  Wayne said I was welcome to shower and that he would talk to me after I got set up.  I asked him about the canal that I had to cross to roll into the driveway of the property.  He said I could totally just jump in and swim in it, that current would just float me down to the bridge where I’d just have to hop out.  I did just that.

My Set Up, with the Big Maria Mountains in the background!

My Set Up, with the Big Maria Mountains in the background!

20140426_135314 20140426_135816 20140426_135932The water was FREEZING COLD and so glorious I could have stayed all night.  However, the canal was very deep and a little terrifying because I had no idea what kind of critters swam in it.  Because of the strong current I had no control and just had to relinquish all to the water carrying me.  So it was exhilaratingly scary.  Afterwards, I took a nice shower, washed all the dust off of myself and went to visit with people.  There were a lot of people there and everyone was so friendly.  Apparently this was a little community of people who daily would come and drink beer together and just chat and share stories.  Some of them had grown up together and some had stumbled upon the shop in their travels and continued to return.  Some of the men I chatted with where hysterical.  They would tell stories and bounce exaggerations off of each other so amusingly that I laughed much of the evening, a refreshing thing after a week of stressful evenings.  I mentioned to Wayne that I wanted to look over a map with him about my next route through the desert.  Darcy, one of the women who worked at the shop told me that she works at a border checkpoint along the route of where I would be going.  The highway I planned to bike on is notoriously treacherous and dangerous.  About 90 miles through the desert with no stops for water, low visibility and literally no shoulder with drops offs into canyons.  I asked if she might take me some of the way so I wouldn’t’ have to camp multiple days in the desert (I was worried about how much water I could carry) and she said yes, she could.  After some chatting Wayne told me he was going down to Mexico on Tuesday (it was Friday) and that if I could stay until then he could take me until he turned to another highway, then I’d only have about 40 miles to bike before hitting the next big town.  I immediately was in.

And this is where I will leave you guys for tonight.  I am at a library writing up this blog and have run out of allotted computer usage time.  I’ll try to get back here tomorrow and finish up the last month of journey.  Enjoy!  I leave you with this photo.  I’ve had a few people ask me what my tent looks like from the inside and here it is!!

The inside of my tent!

The inside of my tent!

 

 

 

Albuquerque to Phoenix. A LOT of adventures, disappointments and joy.

To start with I’ll say most of these photos if you click on them they’ll enlarge to full size.

It has been SO long, I know I know I’m getting worse at this.  I think it’s been like a month…I don’t even know what day it is anymore haha.  So, the last time we chatted I was in Albuquerque staying with Bill and Karen!  During mapping out my next set I had been told by several people, Bill and Karen included, that I should visit a place called Acoma Pueblo just west of Albuquerque and about 15 miles south of the interstate.  The problem was that I couldn’t stay at the pueblo plus I would have to pay for entry which was like 25 dollars and I couldn’t do it.   I was disappointed but accepted the reality and moved on.

March 20-31

On March 20th Bill drove me out to Cubero, NM where I was going to start my next portion sleeping at a rest stop.  According to http://www.freecampsites.net it’s legal to camp at any New Mexico rest stop.  Well, when we got there THE REST STOP WAS CLOSED. CLOSED.  Who does that?!  So we began shopping around, which is what I normally do anyways.  First we went to the RV Camp across from the casino and were told we had to go into the casino hotel and ask them if I could camp there.  I was told no in several different ways and finally got the information that in the next little town, San Fidel, there was a church.  We drove over there to the church and the nun living on the property directed me across the street to the school.  The administrator was the owner of the church.  His secretary called him to ask and then informed me, to my great excitement, that not only could I camp on the land but that there was a trailer I could stay in since no one was living there.  I set up camp, said my goodbyes to Bill and began exploring.

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My view from my trailer

I wandered over to the school where there was wireless I could use to download a few books on my kindle app.  That was when I met Tina!  She comes out of the school and I thought she was someone I’d been told about named Felicia so I said “Are you Felicia?”  and she goes “….uh no….who are you?” HAHA!  I explained who I was and she was immediately very kind and friendly.  She asked me if I had been to Acoma Pueblo and I explained the situation.  She then tells me that she is from Acoma and her family has a house on the mesa and that if I’m willing to stay an extra day she could drive me up to the pueblo the next day!  Of course I said yes, it was very exciting and I knew my grandmother had had a hand in this.  So the following day I took a nice shower, relaxed and waited for Tina to pick me up around 4:30.  We were going to a movie being shown at the Acoma City cultural center called Reel Injun, a film showing the evolution of the portrayal of Native Americans in film over the course of time.  So Tina picked me up, we picked up her sister and headed to Acoma.  On the way there Tina asked if I wanted to just crash at her home afterwards so we could just hang out and relax and I’d get to meet her family.  I said yes that sounded fine.  Driving down into the canyon to get to Acoma (also known as Sky City) was INCREDIBLE.  I wasn’t prepared for it to be so beautiful!

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There were also cows wandering since it was the Acoma Reservation so the cows were just free to go where they pleased =)

We went to them movie which was incredible and informative if you’re looking for a good movie to watch I highly recommend it.  If you click on the words just now it takes to the IMDB site for it.  Aynway, so after the movie we drove up to the pueblo on top of the mesa.  It was incredible, simply incredible.

 

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It was already dark however so we decided I would stay another day and we’d go back tomorrow during the day.  We went back to Tina’s house and I got to meet one of her daughters, her nephew and all the little dogs they have outside their house who were so so sweet.

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LOOK at the heart on that nose. just. look at it.

So the next morning we woke up, went over to Tina’s mother and step father’s home to shower and have breakfast.  From there Tina and drove back to the mesa where we CLIMBED TO THE TOP!  CLIMBED!  Yes, and it was AMAZING!  I had never seen anything like that, had never been up so high freely like that.

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We then came back down and drove up so we’d have a car to drive around the pueblo in.  Tina showed me her family home and we went out on the roof.  Many of the families from the Acoma Reservation have a home on the top of the mesa.  Tina explained to me that if there’s ever an emergency they go up there, that they hold ceremonies and parties up there for celebrations as well.  It was amazing.  There is no power or running water either which you don’t realize what a big deal that is until your inside a dark house with one window.  The houses (most of them) are made with mud and straw.  Tina said that some of the newer stucco models are most updated but that this look isn’t authentic like the mud and straw.

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See those stairs up on the roof? We climbed up there and stood on the edge. My dad would be horrified.

Acoma was beautiful.  It was everything I was told it would be and so much more, I think because I got to experience it with Tina to show me and explain as opposed to just a guide, which ordinarily is required for access to the mesa.  Tina showed me all the different things that are tradition and normal for her family and their ancestors and I’m so happy I got to learn about them from her =). By this point in my stay with Tina, we had become friends.  We drove back to the trailer and collected my bike and belongings and brought them back to her house so I wouldn’t be imposing on the church trailer any longer and could just stay with her.    I ended up staying two more days!  Monday night she made me fry bread which is my faaaavorite!  I’ve always loved it!

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So.  On Tuesday Tina drove me to Grants, NM where I stayed in a church rec room which was great…until about 10pm where I swear to you all that it was haunted and things came out to play.  I was the only person who was supposed to be in the building and yet I was hearing thumps and footsteps practically right outside my door.  I was video chatting with my friend Caitlin for comfort and even she heard the noises.  I was utterly terrified, I can’t even explain.  I didn’t fall asleep until about 2:30 am and made poor Caitlin stay up until 3:30 her time on the east coast.  She is great friend haha.

The next day is titled Worst Day in my one line a day notebook.  I started the day great!  Light breeze no animals or problems.  I stopped for lunch and when I came out the winds had blown my bike over.  This should have been a warning but I thought I’d be fiiiine.  Oh how wrong I was.  The wind was blowing so loudly that I couldn’t hear ANYthing.  This would have been fine except that this meant I didn’t hear the PACK of dogs barking until I was surrounded by them.  I screamed and stopped my bike.  As soon as they heard me scream and stand up they backed off and ran back to their property, thankfully!

I was biking along Route 66 and determined to keep going, however I really hadn’t encountered winds from the side like the ones I met that day.  They were blowing from the south and kept blowing me off the road and because there was no shoulder, only gravel afterwards, off my bike.  After the 8th time I decided it was time to start walking.  The dirt and dust was blowing all over and I was particularly grateful to have my goggles on.  I had initially wanted to make it to the town of Thorough (sp) but I was about 10-15 miles away.  I had jerked a muscle in my groin after blowing off and not being able to unclip my shoe in time to step down.  I came to a bar/liquor store and dragged myself in.  The woman behind the counter was everything except useful.  Here’s how the conversation went:

Me:  Hi, I’m biking across the country and was wondering if I could camp behind this property (it was a huge field by a train tracks)

Her:  I’m not the owner, sorry.

Me:  Okay, do you think your boss would mind?

Her:  Well, sometimes he let’s drivers sleep in the lot because they’re exhausted.

Me: Uh…okaaay.  Do you have a number I could reach your manager on?

Her:  We’re not allowed to give it out

Me:  Okay, can you call him and then I’ll ask him?

Her:  He doesn’t like to be bothered.

Me:  Great.  Thanks SO much.

I was so frustrated because just my appearance spoke volumes at how exhausted I was.  I was clearly not just bullshitting this woman into letting me camp there but she didn’t want to go out of her way at all to help me.  I understand if you have a boss who is terrible and you don’t want to risk getting in trouble but come ON!  I finally slowly rolled my way around the building to the lot next door.  There was a section of grass and mud that looked the best so as I was very gingerly rolling across the broken glass I resigned myself to having to camp there.  As I was unloading my tent from my bike I heard a truck pull up.  A woman gets out of her truck and calls out to me “You can’t camp here”  I looked at her in defeat, “I have no choice, I have nowhere else to get to”  She repeated, “You cannot camp here.  It’s too dangerous. Where are you going?”  I told her about how I had meant to make it to the next town as I’d confirmed with a church there that I could camp on their property and she was like ”Get in the truck, I’ll take you.  I can’t let you camp here.”  So she drove me to the church and dropped me off.  I found a little corner between three walls so the wind was only coming from one direction which was perfect.  I was totally hidden and protected from the wind.  I set up my tent and collapsed.

I woke up in the middle of the night and peeked out of my tent for whatever reason and discovered about an inch of snow!  AN INCH!  Poor Evelyn’s tires where covered in snow!!  And of course I hadn’t put up the tarp over her because it was so windy and clear when I’d fallen asleep…of course.  In the morning when I sat up I stretched and realized that my leg was actually hurt.  What I thought was just a little pull that would be gone by morning was not gone and was still very sore.  I could barely walk much less pedal.  I staggered into the main offices of the church where they were amazed that I had camped out.  After all for the first time there was still snow on the ground even at like 9 am!  Usually if I encounter snow then it’s gone by the time I wake up and exit from my tent.

It was arranged that I would be scooped up by LeeAnn my host in Gallup.  For lunch the church secretary Delrae (AWEsome name) took me over the school with two other friends to eat in the cafeteria.  It was very cool to see the school and eat school lunches (again).  That afternoon LeeAnn picked me up and we headed to Gallup.  That night we went out for a drink with her boyfriend at a local bar called The American.  The next day I slept in and walked around a little bit.  That night LeeAnn and I went to a karaoke bar and sang which was fun.  All night there was a guy hitting on LeeAnn asking all these ridiculous questions.  At the end of the night when he realized he wasn’t going to get her to go home with him he started complaining about the line for paying his tab.  “What’s stopping me from paying me bill?  I could just walk out and they’d never know”  I turned and looked at him with zero emotion on my face and said “….because it’s wrong?”  I was floored at this guy being a jerk just because he wasn’t getting what he wanted.  Not only that but he had barely said three words to me all night and suddenly we were talking now that LeeAnn was having a conversation with someone else?  No.

The next morning LeeAnn, her boyfriend and I went to the Gallup Flea Market which was actually fantastic.  I got a little bracelet and a little pair of beautiful earrings that I’m wearing now.  I really wanted some that weren’t dangly that I could wear all the time and not worry about and since these were only like 4 dollars I wasn’t going to freak out if one of them fell out.

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See? Simple and cute!

After the flea market LeeAnn dropped me back at the apartment where I made Jamaican stew and she went to get her hair done.  During this time I also had a minor panic attack.  It wasn’t going unnoticed by me that I seemed to be still having trouble and getting ride after ride after thing after thing went wrong for me.  I decided that I was just going to give up when I got to LA.  I started making phone calls to anyone I knew in the LA area who I thought might be able to help me out.  I figured I could just get to LA and get a job doing something like waitressing or cleaning hotel rooms…anything.  I basically called everyone I was friends with and panicked on the phone to them.  I had also discovered that I was getting altitude sickness.  I realized it on the night I first arrived in Gallup after we got home the bar and I had a debilitating headache that was keeping me awake all night.  The night of karaoke after two beers I could FEEL that horrible headache coming back and I immediately started drinking as much water as I possibly could to keep it at bay.  I had noticed the shortness of breath in and before Albuquerque but then nothing much until Gallup.  I started plotting the easiest way to get out of the higher elevations.  Train?  Bus?  Car?  My host in Flagstaff informed me that they were basically at the same elevation as Gallup so I wouldn’t be much better off by heading to them.  The Grand Canyon, my next planned stop, was even higher up so that was out of the question.  I felt like a horrible person because I had been staying with LeeAnn for three days at this point and usually the general idea is to staying one night or so and move on.

The following day I arranged with a warmshowers host I’d been in contact with previously but due to lack of signal, hadn’t been able to reach, for me to go to their house that day.  I loaded up my belongings and bike and departed.  I went down the curb outside of her apartment and my rear tire blew.  Great way to start this shitty day.  LeeAnn was great enough to just drive me the 8 minute drive over to their house.  Chris and Jackie were great.  They took me hiking up in the Cebola National Forest.  Hooowwwwever as soon as Jackie and I started on our trail I realized that I was in big, big trouble.  The headache was back.  The farther we got the worse it got.  Soon I couldn’t even lift my head because the movement and the sun was excruciating.  I couldn’t even breathe and the farther we went the more my entire body throbbed.  Jackie kept saying I could go back but I had no idea where I was (and I KNEW there were mountain lions in this forest) so I wasn’t about to strike out on my own to try and find the trailhead.  Finally after a couple hours of hiking which if it wasn’t for the alititude, I’m sure I would have LOVED, we were back in the car.  That’s when the nausea hit me full force.  All the way home I just kept saying I could NOT throw up in a strangers car.  When we got back to their house I passed out on their couch for about an hour and a half desperately trying to calm my stomach.  I woke up and ate a slice of pizza and then really, went back to sleep.  I just lay there in agony, and I know I sound like I’m exaggerating but it was horrible.  I hate being nauseous, plus the headache and soreness on top of it all.  And then I threw up and it was horrible.  Jackie came out and gave me some crystallized ginger candy and ginger tea which seemed to help a little.  I also remembered that I had anti-nausea pills from when I had dizziness in January.  So I took one of those and fell asleep.

The following day I slept until like noon, literally.  When I woke up I started making phone calls to take a bus to Phoenix.   The problem was that to take the bus I would have to box up my bike which wasn’t the problem.  The problem was that in all of Gallup there were no bike boxes to be had.  The one bike shop didn’t have any and the bus terminal AND Amtrak didn’t have any either.  I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to bike to Phoenix, altitude illness or no.  Jackie and Chris helped me out looking over the map and deciding on the easiest, quickest path.  Another thing I’d been doing while there was going through my belongings and deciding which things I didn’t need to use and could ship ahead of me to my Mom and Jack’s house.  By the end I had everything whittled down to my two rear bags and my basket.  Because of weight issues I had it distributed between all four bags but lemme tell you, it made quite the difference.  I was all packed up and ready to go that night.  I knew I had an early morning and had to beat the wind.  I was determined to beat some of the wind which starts up around 11 or noon.  It was an early night for me.

April 1 -10

Tuesday morning I got up at 5:30 am.  I took a shower and ate breakfast with Chris and Jackie.  Then I packed up my bike and was off.  The first ten minutes was a solid roll down the hill which was great.   Then a few climbs.  It wasn’t too bad until about 10 am when the wind started.  I’d gotten to blow down some great hills so I had a little fun that day.  But I eventually got to a stretch of road that was just horrible.  Not because it was uphill but because the wind was blowing so hard.

DISCLAIMER:  THE FOLLOWING STORY IS A LITTLE HORRIFYING.  If you don’t like toilet stories scroll on by.  Otherwise enjoy my misery.  I wasn’t going to tell a single soul, but then I told a few people and they agreed it should go in the blog.  So here you have it:

So, as I’m biking along I realize that I need to pee.  This is nothing new and unusual.  What was new and HORRIFYING was the knowledge that I also had a tummy ache and had to poop.  There was NOTHING between where I was and the Zuni Pueblo about 30 miles away.  …Nothing but trees that is.  After about half an hour or debating I came to terms with the fact that I was going to Freedom Poop.  I didn’t have a choice.  I then spent the next 30 minutes biking and scoping out the best hiding place for said Freedom Poop.  Who knows how long I’d be there, I needed to be hidden.  Unlike peeing in the wilderness which takes a second and who cares who sees your butt, I really didn’t want to have an witnesses.  I found a spot, parked my bike hiked around to investigate and decided it was perfect.  I went to my backpack to get my wet wipes and make the discovery:  I had packed them somewhere else while rearranging everything.  I couldn’t wait to hunt through all my bags for a tiny bag of wet wipes so I kept digging in my backpack for anything that might suffice as a wet wipes replacement.  Nothing.  That’s when I noticed it.  My bag of flour tortillas and one tortilla left.  I had had them since Texas and it wasn’t getting eaten any time soon.  I made an executive decision that this would have to do.

You have not experienced hysterical humiliating laughter until you have used a tortilla to wipe yourself because you don’t have wet wipes.  It turns out that tortillas aren’t really made for wet wipe replacement.  Don’t get me wrong, they got the job done but you have to be very careful.  Thankfully it didn’t fall apart at any important times but I will always be prepared with wet wipes from this day forward.

So anyways, I get back on my bike feeling much better and full of humor.  The wind is making a habit of being really strong and then dying down repetitively.  So I get to bike for 15 minutes and then have to get off and walk.  As I’m entering Zuni Pueblo the wind REALLY starts up.  It’s blowing so hard that the dirt is actually hurting me as it slams into my legs, arms and cheeks.  I’m so grateful for my ski goggles that I use when it’s windy, or going down a really fast hill.  Without them I would have been blinded, surely.  (Maybe a little dramatic sounding, but true nonetheless.)  I biked through the pueblo and stopped at the cultural center just for a bathroom and directions.  The children in the community were putting on a show for their families with cultural dances in all their regalia.  It was adorable and beautiful!  No photos allowed without a permit so I just watched and enjoyed.  I also got a piece of cake and a cup of juice!  The women at the center gave me directions to the church I was trying to find and I headed over there.  Once inside I spoke with the priest and plead my case.  He introduced me to a girl who of course I can’t remember her name (again, so sorry).  She gave me directions to an indian christian reform school down the street.  I headed there and they let me sleep in the school which was nice after a long dusty day.

The next morning when I woke up I knew I was in for a long day.  The next town, St. John, was 55 miles away.  Which is 2 days for me.  I knew I’d be camping along the road one night and that was okay.  I decided that as long as I got halfway there I’d be fine.  HOWever, the wind had other ideas in mind for me.  That day the wind was SO powerful that I walked my bike literally the ENTIRE day.  I walked for 8 hours and make it 14 miles.  Not bad for walking all day, but I wasn’t pleased that the next day if I wanted to get to St. Johns I’d be biking 41 miles or so.  The exciting thing about that day was that I crossed into Arizona, which I’d been determined to do on my own.  No rides, nothing.  I stopped and took an exhausted nap leaning up against the Arizona State sign wrapped up in my blanket from Caitlin.

ARIZONA!!

ARIZONA!!

When I woke up about half an hour later I got up and kept walking.  I walked another 4 miles and as the sun started going down I began looking for where I was going to camp.  I somehow managed to find the PERFect hiding place.  It was off the road about 20 feet.  I stepped on a prickly pear walking up to it, which sounds terribly painful and it was but I was just grateful that it was me and not Evelyn’s bike.  I hadn’t even known to be looking down for cactus and wouldn’t have even noticed.  Two little pine trees had managed to grow in such a way that there was a clearing between them but their branches grew horizontally towards each other so the clearing was hidden.  It couldn’t have been more perfect for me, because I wanted to be hidden from cars in either direction.  Not only that but it was blocking the wind coming from the West at a mighty speed, so I wouldn’t spend the whole night freezing and listening to my tent blow.   I wiggled into the clearing, praying for no poisonous caterpillars falling, and dragged my bike in with me.  I set up my tent and was so so grateful to just collapse inside where it was quiet.  The next morning when I woke up at 6 am THE WIND WAS ALREADY BLOWING.  There was another weird noise that I was hearing too and when I unzipped my window I realized what it was:  tiny hail.  It was snowing and hailing.  In Arizona.  I was not pleased.  I had already decided to just stay in my tent all day and not go anywhere because what was the point if the wind was blowing and it was SNOWING.  After an hour of this I got bored and cold after being awake for a little.  I finally got out of my tent, packed up and determined to just hitch a ride, rolled up to the road.

No one was stopping for me.  After twenty minutes of trying and me just shivering in the wind I figured I might as well bike a little and this turned out to be the best decision ever.  I climbed an enormous hill and literally, the rest of the day was pretty much downhill.  Majorly down hills.  Like…I cannot even explain.  I’ll show you photos instead!!

Okay I just went back and it turns out I have no photos of that day, which is odd because I swear I took a zillion.

Never mind I found them on my other camera.  Okay here you go:

 

Do you see that ROLL of downhills?

Do you see that ROLL of downhills?

Not only were the hills glorious and many the scenery was just gorgeous.  It was so beautiful seeing canyons in the distance and giant walls of rock.  The entire day was made up of this beauty.

See?  Beautiful.

See? Beautiful.

So anyway, all day was glorious.  My legs felt great (as they should after two days of walking) and the wind was great.  I knew that I had to make it to St. Johns that day.  It was 39 miles away from where I started and I had to do it.  I was so so happy all day long, waving at people driving by me, some of them would wave back and some of them wouldn’t.  I had one truck that the guy and his buddy just stared at me and kept going.  I didn’t think anything of it until hours later as I’m climbing a hill and the same truck passes me going in the opposite direction as before, (so they were heading to St. John too) and they see me sweating and huffing and puffing up this huge freaking hill and start honking and wave and cheering from their car.  It was great haha.  When I got to the top of the hill I passed the St. John City Limits and I had a brief moment of overwhelming joy.  I was so so proud of myself and the fact that I had bike so far in one day after the past few horrible horrible days.  Days where it seemed like everything was going wrong and I thought I had surely made a huge mistake on this trip.  I talked in my last entry about how I was getting nervous and I was right on the money.  The stretch of biking from Santa Rosa to Gallup (basically all if New Mexico) was full of a lot of feelings of defeat and uncertainty.  In Gallup I felt sure that I was going to quit my trip and just give up altogether because what was the point if I was going to keep getting rides every time something bad happened.  I really needed to have a good day and that was this day.  All through Texas I was seeing this little yellow butterfly and I liked to think it was my Grandma keeping my company.  The butterfly reappeared on this day and it was just what I needed to keep believing I could do it.

That night I ate dinner at a restaurant in St. John called ….crap now I can’t remember it.  If you guys are reading this comment the name and I’ll edit this post so I can add a link.   Anyway, the women in this place were fantastic and sweet and just what I needed after my day of hard work.  My lips were so chapped and split they were bleeding but I didn’t even care.  I had made it to St. John!  I was directed to the fair grounds in town where I could camp and that’s where I met Kay and her dog!  Kay runs the RV park out by the fairgrounds and that’s where I camped that night.  It was perfect!  Her dog was so sweet (after he met me)  and well behaved in his little golf cart.

 

Kay and her doggy =)

The next day started off well, however towards the end of the day my legs were crapping out on me.  They were sore from the day before, having never gone 39 miles before on this trip.  By 2:30 I was again walking my bike.  A woman stopped me and asked if I needed somewhere to stay that night.  I agreed to go with her and she said to just follow her car.  So we crept through a town called Concho.  At one point a dog suddenly was racing at me growling ferociously and stopped inches from biting my ankle as soon as I put my feet on the ground.  I seems as though as soon as they realize that I’m not a monster, I’m a person, they are okay.  But as soon as my foot goes back up to the pedal they growl again.  It’s very interesting.  Anyways, after that Joan (the woman) told me we could pack up my bike into her car as she and her husband lived off an unpaved dirt road.  They had a beautiful home.  They grew pretty much every produce imaginable, every fruit tree I could imagine eating from, they had a vineyard, they had a pond with koi etc.  Joan made an AMAZING dinner for us of pesto pasta, homemade bread and salad from the garden.  Rich, her husband is a potter who makes amazing pottery, so I spent an hour or so in the pottery shed watching him throw plates and bowls.

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Their dog, Buck, a very VERY sprightly 12 year old.

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Apple trees!

That night RIch took me out and showed me a bunch of constellations in the sky which was great!  The next morning Joan took me to Show Low which was where I would have ended up yesterday if I’d kept going.  Again, it was a great day.  There were a lot of hills to climb but also a lot of downs to roll.  So I worked hard that day and my legs were up to the challenge!  I knew I would be camping in the forest that night I just didn’t know where exactly.  I was on a stretch of road that had nothing at all in terms of little towns or anything.  I passed a little RV camp around 5pm but it was closed which was probably for the best, why should I have paid to camp where I could have camped ANYwhere in the woods for free.  I found a trailhead into the woods around 5:30 and started in.  Picture this.  There was quite a few forest fires a few years back and it burned a lot of the woods.  So I biked about a mile off the road until I reached the trees.  I was really excited to camp in the ”real forest” with tall tall trees.


SAM_3082As I found a tree to lean my bike on and started unpacking my tent I made an interesting discovery.  I was about to shake out the footprint that goes underneath my tent so I was scoping out the ground for flat area with little to no pricklies.  I looked around a realized that there were some awfully large paw prints all over the place.  Upon further investigation I discovered there was also pretty big poop all over the place.  I didn’t have any 4G service at all so I texted my sister, Kerry AND Caitlin (a backup and a backup for my backup) to google this forest and find out about it’s wildlife and if there were bears I needed to be attending to my food appropriately for.  My sister’s text goes ”You better hang that shit up.”  Caitlin goes “I don’t want to alarm you BUT…” and Kerry goes “Ahem, according to Sitgreaves National Forest website: _____Insert Lots of Bear and Mountain Lion Warnings Here____

I packed my tent back up and rolled back down the road until I was practically in view of the highway.  I dumped out all of my bags and sorted through everything separated anything that smelled like ANYTHING into the odor proof bags, ate my dinner and packed that away too.  I then walked my food and water bags about 100 feet away from my tent and hoped that was far enough.  I have a wasp spray as well that if you spray a ring of it around your tent it’s supposed to help deter snakes and scorpions who can cross it but don’t like to.  So I didn’t my ring around my tent and got in.  I then watched the sun set from inside my tent.  It was really gorgeous but as you remember, my debilitating fear of bears was taking away from my enjoying it.

Sunset from my tent

I was so scared that night.  I know a lot of people think I’m being silly but I can’t help that I’m terrified of bears.  I can’t help it and I’M SO SCARED OF THEM OKAY?!  You know when you’re so tense that your muscles hurt?  That’s how I was until about midnight.  I couldn’t fall asleep because I was so scared.  Every noise was impending brutal bear-death.  I heard coyotes howling on the hill right next to me and it would have been totally adorable if it wasn’t RIGHT THERE on the hill next to my tent.  In the morning when I came out of my tent, alive and fully put together mind you, there were coyote paw prints aalllll around my tent.  Clearly they’d been checking me out.  I packed up my shit as fast as I could and got the hell out of there.  I knew that night would be the same as the last.

I’m biking along doing alright, but going slowly.  There are a LOT of ups and downs.  It wasn’t bad though, I wasn’t dying.  Around 3:30 or so I’m biking along bopping to my headphones, which I HAVE to have on to focus or else the sounds of cars makes me nervous and twitchy.  Suddenly, the same way with the woman on I-40, there’s someone next to me, and just like last time I screamed loudly.  It ended up being another guy touring!!  His name was Spence and he was biking from Florida to the California coast between San Diego and L.A.  He goes ”Hey I’m camping at the Canyon Point Camp Ground, do you want to camp with me?  It’s just down the road!”  I was thrilled to meet another tourist.

Me:  Sure!! Where down the road!

Spence:  Just up there a few miles.

Me:  Where up there a few miles?

Spence:  Like ten miles down the road

Me: …….ohhhh. Ten miles you say?

I don’t think Spence fully understood just how slow of a biker I am.  It was 3:30 though so I figured I could make it there by dark.  I told him I would be there, and it would be late, but I would be there.  He pedalled on.  Now I was in big trouble lol.  I had to make it to this camp ground come hell or high water.  It was only 10 miles.  ONLY TEN MILES DAMMIT.  Up and down and up and up and up hills.

This was the never ending mountain up.

Finally at 5:30 and with 3 miles to go I see Spence coming BACK towards me down the road.  When I got to him he announced the camp was closed and he knew if I’d had to climb the last few hills I would not be pleased.  So we decided to just go into the woods and make our camp there!  AND WE MADE A FIRE.  Which was glorious because the temperature dropped pretty fast.  Spence had food to share and I had bread and fudge to share so we pooled our food together and it was deliiicciiioouus.  We stayed up chatting and being warm by the fire until it was late and we were exhausted and retired to our respective tents.  I was still nervous about bears but we were close enough to the road that I was less nervous plus with the campfire I felt a little better.

Spence’s tent is the kind you have to hang up on two trees. It was fascinating.

Fiiiiiirre!

 

The moon was so bright that night but I didn’t even realize how bright until I took my headlamp off with me to use the bathroom before bedtime.  I clicked it off and suddenly everything was bathed in light.  I was like where the hell is that light coming from!? It was the moonlight!!  I couldn’t believe how well I could see.

The next morning when I woke up it was still chill so I STARTED MY VERY OWN CAMPFIRE.  CYNTHIA, CLYDE AND CLARA BE PROUD.  I was super proud of myself for being able to start the fire.  It certainly helped that everything was dry as could be.  That day I was hoping to get to a town called Payson.  It was about 39 miles away but I had a Warmshowers host there.  I hadn’t’ planned to be there so soon so that was kind of exciting that I was making such good time.  I asked ahead of time and they said it was fine if Spence stayed with them too.  Spence and I agreed to meet at the McDonalds in Payson where we were going to use the wireless.

THIS

WAS

THE GREATEST

DAY OF BIKING

EVER.

We were biking along something called the Mogollon Rim.  We were going down mountains at 6% incline so fast I could smell my tires burning and we had to be entirely in the car lane so we could stay in control.  Cars had to go slowly too so everyone was very careful and aware of their surroundings.  If you’d like to see how fast click the followign link.  It starts getting good after the 1 minute mark or so.

https://plus.google.com/104575099804430544301/posts/CvPSbCBgfVc

So it was basically an entire day of that.  I passed into the Tonto National Forest and like I said before, the Mogollon Rim which was INCREDIBLE.  It was so beautiful!

Mountains!

Mountains!

Mogollon Rim =)

Mogollon Rim =)

Tonto National Forest and Mogollon Rim

Tonto National Forest and Mogollon Rim

I passed Spence at one point because he had stopped to help a woman fix her broken down car.

Very helpful.

 

As I was passing through what I called the pre-town of Payson I started getting really really hot.   If you’ve ever passed out you’ll know what I mean when I talk about that kind of cold feeling you get when you’re about to pass out.  I was getting that hard core as I was going up the last 2 miles of mountain before the McDonalds.  I kept stopping and pouring water down my shirt because it was cooling me down in the breeze but I was so scared I was going to pass out before I got there.  BUT I DIDN’T.  I MADE IT.  Spence got there about 10 minutes after I did.  We sat for about an hour cooling down and just being happy that we made it.  Spence knew he would, me not so much =)  Then we headed over to our hosts in Payson who welcomed up, let us shower and do laundry and then made us DELICIOUS vegetarian mexican..ish food.  I’m not entirely sure but it was so delicious.  I wasn’t too smart that day and didn’t put on enough sunscreen so my back was definitely burned and I was hot hot hot that night.  It took me awhile to fall asleep because I was hot and it was quiet.  I was used to the wind blowing my tent and animals calling.  In the morning Spence and I said goodbye before heading out on our route.  While we were taking the same route we knew we were separating today.  I was making my trip into a 3 day ordeal where Spence was doing it all in one day.

Touring buddy

We had one section of downhill for about 5 miles where we both stopped at the same time, took some photos and that was that!

 

More mountains!!

More mountains!!

From that point on it was all downhill.  Figuratively.  Not even one bit up hill.  At about noon time my legs had decided that they were no longer participating in this game.  I was in lowest gear, would go about three yards and have to stop.  It was terribly, terribly hot and I was exhausted already.  I passed one section with a downhill for 3/4 of a mile and that went by way too fast.  WHILE I was very slowly rolling down this hill is when I saw my first Saguaro Cactus.  Saguaro Cactus grow only in very specific areas of the southwest and all through Texas I had read that I ”would not see any Saguaro while in Texas or New Mexico” so to see it towering at least a hundred feet above my head on a mountain side was one of the most profound moments of my trip to date.

I stood still and stared up at that cactus full of excitement smiling enormously for several minutes before dissolving completely into tears.  I felt as though I was finally reaching a milestone of such worth that I could say “Look Grandma, look at the traveling I have accomplished so far.”  I’m sure I looked like an absolute nut on the side of the highway sobbing brokenheartedly.  I felt almost like the pain of my Grandma dying was new as the first day.

My first Saguaro Cactus

My first Saguaro Cactus…it’s WAY up high, I’m all the way zoomed in

Eventually I was able to go on  for a short time before I began walking.  My legs were exhausted.  A police officer stopped me and asked if I was okay.  I asked how far away Sunflower, AZ was.  He says “It’s at mile marker 217.  I looked at the mile marker:  227.  Ten miles away.  Great.  Thanks officer.

FOUR hours later it’s about 98 degrees out, I’ve been applying sunscreen to my back every 5 minutes (more because the spray is nice and cool than for protection) and I’m still walking and I pass mile marker 226.  The sun is low, like low enough that it’s going to set soon.  I realize that the nearest trailhead is one mile away and it’s basically an uphill climb and there is NO way I could even walk there in time before it’s dark.  I have stopped at a section along the highway that leads to a fence.  Picture a canyon and mountains rising up from all sides.  I was in the bottom.  Yea.  The highway goes back and forth with no off ramps for miiiiiillless.  I rolled up to the fencing behind which was a kind cliff/…mountain…thing.  I can’t explain well.  I shimmied underneath the barb wire fencing and started exploring.  I called my sister and with terrible signal ordered her to not hang up on me unless I hang up first for SURE.  I then explored down in an empty waterbed of some sort now inhabited by deer, ants, coyotes and who knows what other prints I saw.  I was torn because I was TERRIFED to sleep here.  I’d been seeing ”watch out for the wildlife” signs since I had entered down into this section of the mountains.  WHAT KIND OF WILDLIFE?  This was a section of land that people didn’t normally come to so I couldn’t blame any animals that would chance upon me if they reacted, after all I was encroaching on their territory!

After I discovered I was standing on an enormous anthill (both the ants and the hill were huge) I decided it was time to hitch a ride.  I crawled back under the fencing, still on the phone with my sister, and tried for a solid 15 minutes to get a ride.  Finally a man in a pickup truck stopped for me.  I hung up on my sister and ran to his truck, explaining the situation.  He agreed he could take me to the next highway intersection (since he said Sunflower has really nothing).  He chatted with me about the different types of cactus that I was seeing and told me about the jumping cactus, which I’d never heard about.  When we got to the intersection of the highways I got out, and he got out.  Immediately we both smelled something rotting.  He says to me, “I can’t leave you here, that dead animal will attract predators from all over, especially bears”.  UH. YEAH. NO.  TAKE ME WITH YOU.  I managed to get ahold of a warmshowers host in Mesa which was where he was heading.  On the way there he pointed out the Superstition Mountains as well.  I got to see an AMAZING sunset.

He dropped me off with Bill and Gerri in their little senior community and it was FANTASTIC.  They were the sweetest couple not to mention some hardcore cyclists.  We agreed that I would stay there the following day to relax, then make the last push of 50 miles or so to Trish and John’s home, Kerry’s aunt and uncle!!  I was so close!!  So the next morning Bill and Geri went for a bike ride with friends ”a short 50 miles or so”.  I went down to the pool and swam for a few hours.

Then I walked to the library a got a few books to read, then I went and showered and just relaxed in the air conditioning.  When they got back we had a little lunch and then went down to happy hour.  There was a band playing and Gerri and I tried to figure out why the drummer was wearing a black shirt in this heat and who she was married to in the band.

Gerri and I

That night I packed up all my belongings and went to bed early.  I had an early morning ahead of me and a long long day.  I HAD to make it to the Muir’s house.

Early Thursday morning I got up and departed.  And it was amazing. AMAZING.  Totally flat the entire way and for the most part I had a bike lane of my very own!!

My own lane!

The city of Mesa is pretty hardcore about their cyclists.  It was fantastic!!  I really loved seeing orange trees everywhere I looked!  And beautiful green trees with pink flowers on them.  I biked until 12:30 pm when I stopped for lunch.  I’d been biking on roads and along canals.  It was incredibly beautiful.

See the oranges?!

See the oranges?!

Shortly after lunch I got my first flat since Gallup.  The front tire blew out.  The sun was blasting down full heat.  I spied across the street from the canal I was on a house with a big tree.  The woman in the house was just happening to walk across the front yard so I called out asking if I could maybe change my tire in the shade of her tree.  She said sure so up I rolled.  Much to my amazement and joy she was having work done on her house so there was a pressurized air hose available to use!  My tire was changed in five minutes and I was off!  I was 4 miles away from Trish and John’s house when THE SAME TIRE blew out AGAIN!  I stopped, changed the tire but once it reached it’s air level it immediately deflated.  I was pissed.  I called Trish and she had John come scoop me up.  I felt so mad at myself for not being able to make it.  I knew it wasn’t my fault but I had been so determined that morning.  John told me it’s the cactus needles in the tires that makes it go out so repeatedly!  He said a local bike shop could put some stuff in my tires so they wouldn’t be penetrable by the cactus needles…and a lot of other things for that matter!  I got to their house and this was on the front door:

How sweet is that?

So I am officially in Phoenix!  I’ve been here for almost a week just basking in the sun, the pool, the fun and most importantly the love that Trish, John and their granddaughter Destiny and Trish’s brother Gar are giving.  And of course their dog Scruffy!  He takes a little to warm up but we’re officially friends. They make it very difficult for me to leave. ❤  We’ve had lots of adventures!  I went hiking with Destiny on Saturday (a VERY short hike), celebrated her 13th birthday with her, we went out to karaoke twice (you know that that’s my favorite!)

How I spent my entire first day relaxing =)

John and Trish at karaoke

Destiny and I at karaoke

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Friday evening I got to see an old high school friend who I hadn’t seen in eight years…since high school!  We met up, walked around Target and had a beer in front of McDonalds…sounds good to me! It was really wonderful to reconnect and catch up on things.  I love when you see someone and the friendship is like no time has passed.  I also saw a sweater at Target with BICYCLES ALL OVER IT!

Eddie and I

Sunday we drove to the Grand Canyon and Sedona!!  Trish and John felt that I really should see it since I couldn’t go as I’d planned so we spent Sunday up there and it was IN.CRE.DIBLE.  It was just so beautiful.  The squirrels there are shameless.  There are really no words to describe the Grand Canyon, so here are a plethora of photos.

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This guy was just chillin there watching everything below him chirping happily. What a fatty.

 

YAY!

In my socks lol

On the way back from the Grand Canyon we drove through Sedona and it was just as beautiful!!  So much green everywhere, along with the red rocks and everything was just gorgeous.  It was amazing, magical and everything I had hoped for!  Little babbling brooks, people wading in the rivers and little new age shops everywhere!

Sedona overlook =)

The little brook

Trish and Destiny in the backyard of this crystal shop

Practically a postcard.

Just before Sedona we stopped at a canyon called Oak Creek Canyon (I…believe) where we took this photo:

I also bought a necklace made out of Blue Goldstone by a Navajo woman there.  I couldn’t walk away from it.  When I asked her what it meant she said it represents Tranformation, New Beginnings, Adventure, and Safety on Trips….CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT!?  Meant to be, honestly!

The picture doesn’t do it justice, it glitters in the sun so sparkly.

Today was Easter.  We enjoyed our last day together as I depart tomorrow to continue on my journey!  It’s supposed to be a high of 98 degrees!  EARLY MORNING FOR ME!

I’ll be honest with you all, getting from Gallup to Phoenix was, I felt one of my most successful stretches.  I did a lot of legwork and felt really accomplished because of it and while at times I felt defeated like the evening in the canyon when I hitched a ride, I knew that these were things I couldn’t control and were out of my power to change.  I felt my grandma with me when I saw that cactus, just as I felt her when I was at the Grand Canyon, those first few moments of seeing it.  Meeting a new friend on the road was a great experience (I just spoke to Spence tonight and he just flew back to Florida last night!!  Yay Congrats Spence!!)   My next stretch will be difficult, a LOT of mountains but I feel much better knowing my tires have that new rhinodillo material in them to keep them strong.  Which, actually, reminds me that I need to get new tubes in case I do get a flat.  I hope all of you are well and I will talk to you next time!!

I’ll leave you with this sign that’s behind every toilet at the Grand Canyon:

Lueders to Albuquerque – A tough stretch, am I a tough enough cookie?

Alright.  It feels like it’s been AGES since my last blog post.  When we last spoke (lol) I was in Lueders, TX spending time at the Big Baptist Church and conference center helping out.  The plan that Cindy and I had made was that on Saturday she would drive me up to Lubbock since the guy who introduced us, Monroe, had family there that he could also visit so she wouldn’t be driving alone.  That Friday I spent the day helping vaccum and clean and saying goodbye to all the Seniors of Mission.  That night I played a game with them called Jokers (I think) and it was a really wonderful evening.  I was actually a little emotional about leaving (although I didn’t express that much).  I had made friends and was a little sad to say goodbye to them!  Especially Cindy, who as I told you before, I had grown close with.  Friday night I decided to do my laundry.  When I went to take them out of the dryer barefoot, I returned to my room to discover that my room was LOCKED.  I had accidentally locked it behind me and I had no key.  The only thing I could do was head to Cindy’s little house on the other side of the camp property.  In the dark.  At 11pm.  Barefoot.  Barefoot. Barefoot. BAREFOOT.  Walking through the main area of the property wasn’t bad as there was plenty of lighting but once I passed that area there were no lights and I was so terrified.  I don’t know if I’ve talked about these pesky little prickly things that are called Goatheads but THEY ARE THE DEVIL.  They poke you so sharp and when you try to pull them out the fall apart into multiple needles.  So I’m gingerly making my way to Cindy’s, where I rang the doorbell and she came out half asleep, (haha sorrrrry Cindy).  She gave me her keys and I returned to unlock my door, put on some shoes and bring them back.  I didn’t really think it through to bringing a flashlight with me so I had another dark trek to and from her house.  I packed up my clothes and fell asleep.

Saturday

Saturday morning I woke up extra early so I could have breakfast with the seniors one last time.  I ate a LOT of food.  I then went back to bed because Cindy and I weren’t planning to leave until about 2:30.  When I woke up for lunch I entered the cafeteria to see Larry (the head of the camp) eating lunch with a few other people some I knew and some I didn’t.  When he saw me he told me he had some people he wanted to introduce me to.  After I got my lunch together (a small salad, as I had a stomach ache from my big breakfast) I sat down and was introduced to a couple from Lubbock who had driven down to check out the conference center!  We had a nice chat and they agreed that they could drive me to Lubbock and could I be ready in about half an hour?  I said I could definitely and raced to my room to pack (I hadn’t done any thinking I had until 2:30).  I texted Cindy the details and cried a little while I packed because she was at a softball practice with her girls and I wouldn’t get to say goodbye to her before I left.  Thankfully we are friends on Facebook and I have her number so we’ve been staying in touch but it’s hard to put off a goodbye and then not get to have it.  The Winters were very very kind and we had fantastic conversation all the way up to Lubbock where they dropped me off at the house of an old friend Dominick and his wife Delores.  (You’ll have to forgive spelling as I’m not positive how to spell that).  I hadn’t seen Dom in many years so it was very fun to see him and get to know him not as a child as I had known him in the past.

That night we went to a Mardi Gras social at their church where I met a few friends of theirs.  There was a live auction after that and it was fun to watch some people who got really into their bidding for the item that they wanted.

Sunday – Tuesday

Sunday we all went to lunch with friends of Dom and Delores from church.  I like watching people’s reactions when they hear about my trip because everyone is different.  I watch their faces and within about 5 seconds you can tell what they think of it, especially if they keep their face with no reaction at all, that’s when I can tell they’re processing HOW to react.  Sometimes the people who react like this are the best to talk to because everyone has different questions for me and some are very very interesting.

That night the Oscars were on and we all watched them together.  I have been advised to keep this blog as politically and entertainmentally neutral so I’ll just leave it at that and you can all draw your own conclusions.

Monday Dom and I went to pizza for lunch and it was DELICIOUS holy crap.  Simply wonderful.  That night Delores and I enjoyed more pizza (I mean really, what’s too much because pizza is just so freaking good).

Tuesday I mapped out where I was planning to head next.  I had a host set up for Wednesday night named Shane in Littlefield, TX.  That night we all went to dinner at a mexican restaurant and I proceeded to burn my tongue on probably one of the tastiest habenero salsa I have EVER eaten.  Before I went to bed I said my goodbyes to both Dom and Delores as I wouldn’t see them the next day before I left.  It was a really really great visit and I had the most wonderful time =)  Thank you both for everything!  ❤

Wednesday

So Wednesday arrived and I had a plan.  I was biking to a town called Levelland which was about 27 miles west of where we were in Lubbock.  Shane worked at a campus ministry center there and I was going to meet him there and when he was finished with work we would drive to his home in Littlefield.  Shortly after leaving Dom and Delores’ I began to worry just a tiny bit.  There was really no shoulder on the main road I was taking just to get out of Lubbock and while I was busy concentrating on THAT I ended up being chased by two big dogs.  Now because it was a local road and with no shoulder it wasn’t like I could swerve away from them and speed up.  I ended up having to use my dog spray for the first time ever.  To my chagrin it didn’t seem to meet it’s mark very well, but I also assume that’s because I was biking and trying to watch the road while spraying.  Eventually they dropped back but it had been close enough that I was immediately on alert.  So much for being in a nice residential well enclosed dog area.  Once I turned west on the road I would take all the way to Levelland things seemed to improve.  I had an enormous shoulder that was practically a lane to itself.

I stopped for lunch at a tiny tiny little gas station and as I said in a previous post I made a sweet little dog friend.  She was a real honey and brightened up what had been a rather boring dusty day.  I arrived at the ministry center shortly after 4:30 or something like that and Shane was actually greeting me from his truck.  He introduced himself and the students he was talking to at the time.  They were all very curious and friendly with plenty of questions.  I made myself at home and when they all went to dinner the girls invited me along.  The place we went for dinner was a delicious Mexican food place.  Afterwards I hung out at the main church building and napped while waiting for Shane.  It was a glorious nap.  We drove back to Shane’s house where I met his parents and puppies.  HIS DOGS ARE GLORIOUS (as are his parents lol).

Thursday – Saturday

I was supposed to head back out on the road the next day but I found myself enjoying Shane and his family and job so much that I decide to stay another day.  I went to work with him on Thursday and they were having a lunch for the students so I got to meet a lot of new people.  I played ping pong with one student, took money for lunches, went for a walk and just had an all around nice time.

i walked to this lake and there was a little peninsula in it that I walked out into. Very pretty, lots of duck poop. =)

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That night we all played Ultimate Frisbee which, by the way, I learned that I suck at.  I spent that evening with Shane and we had a nice time just sharing great stories and laughing over glasses of milk.  The next day I slept in and stayed at Shane’s house while he went in to work.  It was rumored to get really chilly the next day, maybe even snow so I extended my visit a little longer.  I was really enjoying myself, Shane and his family were the most wonderful company AND they love Fleetwood Mac haha.  Shane fixed up some stuff on my bike that was creating issues, including my brakes which where apparently so filthy that that was why I couldn’t really used them well.  We ended up needed to replace the rear brake cable.  Well on a Friday night hunting for a place with brake cable was a tough task that we put off until the next day.

That night for dinner Shane’s dad made vegetarian enchiladas and they were diiiviiiinnneeee.  Yum yum yum.  For dessert we ate some chocolate cake that his mom had made!  I’m noticing a pattern here, all my posts are about the food I eat.  Well, I’ll admit it.  I have food cravings like I have never had in my life and I’m one of those people who is constantly craving food.

Saturday morning Shane’s dad made us some wonderful omelettes and we had homemade salsa to go with it.  Shane’s dad had managed to get us a brake cable from the local hardware store which was great because the next town where we thought we’d be able to buy it was closed on Saturdays.  Shane was driving me to Clovis, NM a town about an hour away where I was supposed to have a host.  This host had told me he would arrive home at 9pm and then had a going away party to go to and I was welcome to join him.  Well I spent all day on Saturday trying to get ahold of him to no avail.  Well we finally left around 3:30 pm.  We stopped at the New Mexico border for a photo of course!

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That night Shane dropped me off at an RV campground and we said goodbye.  I really enjoyed staying with Shane, as he was the first host who I felt I really befriended as a peer, the same age as me.  Little things about touring that I’ve noticed like me talking to inanimate objects he totally picked up as well on his trek through part of Europe last summer!  He also knew what I meant when I said it makes a big difference when you believe in yourself but you also hear others go out of their way to give you encouragement.  Even when strangers are like YES YOU CAN DO THIS it means so much more than me telling myself that I can do it.  I will definitely see Shane again one day!  I set up my tent next to a stall with two ponies.  As soon as I started unpacking my tent my hosts texted me that he had been in the mountains and would be home in about 4 hours.  I decided that because New Mexico was already a new time zone that I had to get used to so he wouldn’t be home until it was about 11pm in my head I was going to stay cozy where I was and that was fine, it wasn’t an issue and I had no hard feelings towards him because he was apologetic.  As I finished up my set up I got to watch the most beautiful sunset I’ve seen in a long time.  Like inCREdible.

This was the sunset of that night.

This was the sunset of that night.

That night was the worst sleep I have slept so far on this entire trip.  I was unaware when I picked my camping spot that it was like legitimately 100 feet from the train tracks.  Trains that travelled through about every 20 minutes or so and felt so inclined as to blow their train horns as loudly and obnoxiously as possible not to mention shaking the earth.  So as soon as I would drift off I’d be jerked awake by the trains again.  It made for a rough night.  In the morning I took off with a dead phone and ipod because I had finally resorted to putting in my headphones to cover the sound of the trains.

Sunday

I was exhausted from lack of sleep the night before and so, after 5 miles when I was passing a place called Travelers World Campground I decided to stop and ask if I could charge up my stuff.  The couple who owned the place were very gracious and let me sit in their rec room charging my stuff.  While we were chatting they told me about another biker who had recently come through from the west (the direction that I would be heading that day) and had announced that he had been chased by a pack of dogs about 2 miles down the road.  So at this point I wasn’t happy.  I spent the whole afternoon watching my things charge and wringing my hands about the dogs.  I procrastinated so long that it soon grew too late for me to continue on my way.  I resigned myself to the camping fee for the night and set up camp.   The only issue I had that night was zipping myself up completely in my sleeping bag and then being unable to UNzip it.  I had a very legitimate panic attack and after three freak outs from inside my bag I managed to unzip it.  Needless to say I slept with it unzipped that night.  I slept like the dead that night after having close to no sleep the night before.

Monday

The next morning I woke up around 7am, showered and packed up my camp.  I then called the Sheriff’s office to inquire on the current status of the house with the dogs, as the biker had attempted to file a report when his incident had occurred.  The Sheriff’s department, after a little prodding, agreed to drive out in search of the house to check on the dogs.  Upon hearing me ask this worriedly the owner the campground told me that he would just drive me about a mile or two past where the house was.  I was so relieved.  I really hate confrontations with dogs but I was beyond terrified of the idea of having to face a PACK of dogs, and one that was known for chasing cyclists didn’t help.

The owner of the campground also told me that the wind the following day was supposed to get up to 40 mph and then 60 mph the following night.  I knew that this day I had to cover as much ground as possible to insure that I would be in a town where I could take refuge behind a building during the storm.  I biked and biked and biked and biked and biked and biked.  Thankfully there was like no wind, the temperature was good and the terrain was pretty flat.  Finally at about 4:30 I looked at the map and decided I would try to make it through a town just before a town named Taiban, NM.  When I got to the town (which I cannot for the life of me find on the map anymore) I discovered: the town was entirely abandoned.  All the buildings were in disrepair, falling down, falling apart, no windows, doors missing, you name it.  Totally empty and I cannot describe the eerie feeling of biking through an empty town.  I knew I wasn’t going to be camping there that night.  I continued on knowing the next town (Taiban) was only about 7 miles away.  I arrived in Taiban around 5:15 pm.  I passed the city limit sign and biked for literally about 4 minutes before the sidewalk ended, the houses ended, everything stopped and there was the city limit sign.

Where the sidewalk ends, apparently

Where the sidewalk ends, apparently

I stopped and looked behind me….waiiiiit… I just got here.  Again, many of the buildings were abandoned and falling down.  The only building that seemed to be alive was the post office but they were closed, obviously.  The house next to it had a light on with some funky cactus too so I rolled up and knocked.

Funky Cactus

Funky Cactus

An elderly man with an oxygen tank answered the door.  I introduced myself and my trip and asked if I could camp on his property.  Within 1 second he was like “Oh sure!  You could even sleep out in the shed if you wanted to!”  And pointed to … well. …. to a building that I was certain held dead bodies in it.  I rolled my bike over to the edge of the property and cautiously approached the shed.  I wrestled to open the door sure to see some stairs leading down to a basement where someone was held captive or seeing horrible horribleness inside. I startled something inside it.  So of course it is making scared noises and I’m making scared noises and I just realized that sleeping in this creepy ass shed was never going to happen.  The thing ended up being a dove and it’s little family.  I decided officially that I would go to the trouble of setting up my camp over sleeping here for EVERYTHING.  Next item of business was setting up and not getting any freaking pricklies in my tent.  I really REALLY didn’t want my sleeping pad to be puncture by one of these goatheads and then be ruined.  I called Kerry’s mama and chatted with her while I set up my tent.  I felt pretty good afterwards too because it’s always nice to talk to her but also the sun was setting in a way where it was hitting my solar charger just right.  I left my phone alone so it could suck up some sun.  Upon checking my map I discovered that I had gone 42 miles!!  42!!  That is the longest I have ever done and I was so proud of myself!  I drifted off to sleep immediately and in the morning I woke up happy and refreshed but also kind of dreadful.

Tuesday

When I woke up on Tuesday I was so nervous.  As I packed up my tent the wind was already whipping around me making it difficult really to do much of anything.  I finally set off and biked for three hours straight with the wind blowing on my right and my front the entire time and only made it about 4 miles.   After that time the wind got stronger and started blowing me into the highway and that’s when I got off my bike and started walking it.  Even doing that I was being blown to the side.  I was exhausted after about half an hour and realized I was not in any way going to make it to Fort Sumner by bike.  I could barely stand!  I decided I was going to get a ride because there was nowhere with protection that I could set up camp that I wouldn’t be blowing all over the place.  Finally a truck slowed down for me and I blew/ran up to him and explained the situation.  He said of course he could take me to Fort Sumner and we loaded up my bike.  The man’s name was Terry and once we got going on the road it became clear to me that I had met a very kind person.  Terry offered to buy me lunch in Fort Sumner and to take me to the Billy the Kid Museum, which I agreed to.  We went to the museum first which was fascinating and full of fun historical items.

the story of this is that this guy was denied a drivers license so he built himself this bike/car….contraption. I said how great would it be if I was biking around on this thing.

This was the bike’s trailer.

In Fort Sumner

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During lunch Terry told me several very important things.  The highway that I had been planning to take to get me closer to Albuquerque is pretty damn remote, like practically no cars and no towns in between.  He was driving up to Las Vegas, NM so he offered to take me as far as Santa Rosa, NM where I could then get on the interstate/Route 66.  Again, I agreed.  When we got to Santa Rosa we went to a spot called the Blue Hole.  It’s AMAZING.  It’s a pool that is approximately 80 feet deep.  The water is constantly changed out so it’s a beautiful shade of blue.  I cannot stop talking about this pool.  Divers come from all over the country to learn to dive.  If it had been warm enough I would have swam.

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After this it was time to try and find a church in town that would let me camp behind their building where I would be protected from the winds which at this point were forecasted to be approximated 65 mph.  We hunted high and low and then drove up to Santa Rosa State Park where all the primitive campsites were just utterly abandoned.  There was no one there, not even a park ranger, which made me nervous.  I decided to try my luck in town and then we drove into the RV campground part of the park!  We passed an RV with bikes attached and decided to throw caution to the wind.  I hopped out and asked the owners of the RV if I could possibly camp alongside them since there was a wall that would protect me.  They said of course, and Terry also explained that he trusted me and I wasn’t a crazy person.  I said my goodbye to Terry who left me a gazillion amazing homemade cookies to eat.  I then set up my tent, took a shower and got into my tent.  Kit and Bob (the owners of the RV) invited me over for dinner so I headed over there.  We spent the evening chatting about my trip, concerns, telling them stories and hearing about their travels!  It was a lovely, wonderful evening and i didn’t even notice how windy it was getting.  By the time I bid them goodnight and exited the RV the wind was strong and it was cold!  I bundled up in my tent and put on my headphones.  As long as I couldn’t hear the wind I was okay with it because I knew my belongings would keep my in my tent and I wouldn’t blow away and if I did then there was nothing that would help.  In the morning everything was still there.

Wednesday

Kit and Bob said they could take me out of the park which I had actually tossed and turned thinking about the night before.  It was a pretty twisty turn-ey desert dry and isolated park and I had no signal to tell me how the hell to get out.  We loaded everything up and were off!  They dropped me off and we said goodbye!  Off I biked, starting the day going down a wonderful little hill.  I knew that about halfway between where I started and the next town there was a rest stop area with a Dairy Queen, 24 hour gas station and souvenir  shop.  It wasn’t terribly windy which was great because I was definitely climbing a few small hills.  I knew I had all day to only go about 20 miles so that was a relief.  When I finally rolled up to the place it was HUGE.  I really mean enormous too.  The gift shop was beautiful!  The managers of the place were wonderful people who told me not only could I camp behind the whole place but I could set my tent up next to their home.  While I was setting up camp a friendly little cat came to say hello.  She wanted a tummy rub, she wanted in my tent to explore and she wanted to play with the poles of my tent.  I spent the afternoon hanging out in the souvenir shop chatting with the employees who were all wonderful and friendly.  I also bought myself a really lovely, simple little ring.  It’s a Zuni design and I am in love with it.

The little ring under my grandmother’s ring.

I slept really well that night despite the fact that it was FREEZING.  I pulled out my winter coat and cuddled in.

Thursday

The next day I took off hoping to get to a town named Clines Corners.  It was only about 16 miles away but I was really nervous.  The wind wasn’t exactly mild and there were a LOT of hills.  After going for about five hours I had only gone halfway there.  I was going up one hill in particular that was killing me and I was pep talking myself the whole way  up.  I was dying but was determined to make it when a big gust of wind suddenly slammed into me and I felt my leg give way.  It was the same muscle I had just pulled a month previously!  I WAS PISSED.  I could not believe this was happening to me.  I had no idea what I was going to do.  I tried getting a ride but I was on the interstate and I admit to myself that even I wouldn’t pick up a girl on a bike.  That’s when I remembered that there was a Warmshowers host a few towns away.  I had not planned to stop in that town since it was one I had been planning to pass through during a day but emergency times call for emergency measures.  I called the hosts and they said that they could indeed pick me up in about 2 hours.  So I kept walking and suddenly this woman was next to me.  I screamed so loudly I think I scared her.  She and her husband had been driving in the opposite direction and seen me.  They had turned around and pulled up behind me.  They had tried calling out to me but I hadn’t heard them.  They gave me a ride to Clines Corners where I was able to wait for my host to pick me up.

My mood prior to remembering the warmshowers hosts is pretty clear.

Once the Thiery’s picked me up and brought me home my mood improved drastically.  I had been able to ice my leg which was glorious.  For dinner we had burritos which was delicious.  I tried to get ahold of my hosts for that week, friends of my mom, but was having phone issues and couldn’t seem to get ahold of them.  The Thiery’s then told me that they were going out of town for the next two days and would I like to stay there at the house and dog sit their beautiful German Shepherd, Greta.  Of COURSE I would!  So that was the plan.

Greta and I

This is how Greta sleeps =)

The next two days were very relaxing and fairly uneventful.  I puttered around the house baking banana bread, cookies, made myself some pad thai, and played with Greta.  She loved being chased around the house.  A friend of mine from Facebook informed me that she lived IN Albuquerque, which I wasn’t aware of until then.  We then arranged for her to come get me on Sunday with my bike and everything since I knew there was one more big climb before getting into Albuquerque and this time I am not giving my leg any excuse to not heal properly.  Carmen arrived on Sunday morning, we packed up her car bid the Thiery’s goodbye and off we drove!

Sunday

Carmen and her son, Kevin, and I drove into Old Town in Albuquerque where all the little shops are.  I was honestly in utterly heaven!  So much beautiful Native American jewelry from all different tribes and I wanted it all.  Carmen surprised me by buying me a necklace with a pendant that matches the ring I had purchased for myself!!

How sweet was that? Thanks Carmen!!

We explored for awhile, I found some Obama earrings and we listened to a band from Ecuador play for awhile.

Carmen and I

Carmen and I

Obama earrings?!?!  Gimme.

Obama earrings?!?! Gimme.

Ecuadorian music, it was really great!

Ecuadorian music, it was really great!

In Old Town, Albuquerque, NM

In Old Town, Albuquerque, NM

In Old Town, Albuquerque, NM

In Old Town, Albuquerque, NM

In Old Town, Albuquerque, NM

In Old Town, Albuquerque, NM

We then went out to dinner/lunch.  I had a really great day with them it was exactly what I wanted to see in Albuquerque.  Later they dropped me off at Karen and Bill’s house, the friends of my mom who I was staying with!  Immediately I felt at home.  Karen grew up in the same town as I did and her house, I feel, is a reflection of that.  Everything about it reminds me of my hometown and there is beautiful artwork everywhere.   One of Karen and Bill’s daughters, Emma and her friend Chad are also here so it’s nice to just have a whole little family to chill with.  ALSO. THEY HAVE THE BEST DOG EVER.  Her name is Ravi and if I could dognap her I so would.  She is a bully breed mixed with a boxer and I cannot get enough of her cuddly cuteness.

Sweet, sweet Ravi ❤

Last night was St. Patricks Day and Karen worked all day making a delicious Irish feast, which we all enjoyed and appreciated!

Karen and her fabulous dinner!

Then we drank Irish beer and played pingpong.  Today I ran some errands with Bill and got to see a little more of Albuquerque which was fun.  Then we had dinner and all relaxed in the hot tub before indulging in some angel food cake with whipped cream that Karen taught me how to make!  The plan is that I am departing from this sweet haven on Thursday which to be honest with you I have mixed feelings about simply because I’m enjoying myself so much.  They have a hot tub, their backyard is INCREDIBLY gorgeous and the company is just the best!  It’s nice to have someone who hugs you before bedtime as I’m a huge hugger and since starting this trip I haven’t had more than the polite pat pat pat hugs.

To wrap up

To wrap things up on this post, I have had it pointed out to me and I am also aware that I have run into several issues on this latest stretch.  I have taken several rides and changed plans, had injuries and felt sorry for myself.  While I don’t feel the need to justify to others taking rides when they’re offered I still will explain.  This is MY trip.  I can take however many rides that I feel that I need to take.  It’s a long ass trip, what’s a few rides here and there!  Being honest with myself though I will say I’m a little nervous about crossing all the mountains that I have coming up.  If I can’t even make it up the hills LEADING to the mountains who knows how I’m going to do this.  I can only hope that I am smart and tough enough to withstand whatever comes at me next.  The next section of travel will be from here to Gallup and then on to the Grand Canyon!  So depending on if I have a host in Gallup I will either update y’all from Gallup or the GC!!  See you then!! ❤ <3<3

Midothian-Lueders: Did you know that wild hogs eat people too?

I suppose I should take up where I left off hmm? WELL.

The night I left the Sheehy’s I made a wish on a flying Chinese Fire Lantern like the ones in the movie Tangled. That was SUPER cool!!

Thursday

Thursday I spent with my cousin Julie who had come to pick me up from the Sheehy’s. We spent the day running errands, going to the store, enjoying lunch and dinner together and trying out all the different flavors of Angry Orchard’s Hard Cider which is delicious by the way. I think my favorites are Cinnamon and Crisp Apple flavor.

Friday

Friday Julie had to go to work so I had the day to myself to explore the area she lived in. The nearest town is called Waxahachie and about 20 miles away. I decided to bike over there and explore for the day. All I needed to bring with me was my electronics bag with my solar charger, phone, ipod, blah blah blah. I have two bungees that hold that on there in a criss cross. So I’m biking along and everything is great when I encounter the first dogs I have met. Two big Chows running to the entrance of their property and there’s no fencing and they are NOT happy to see me. I managed to bike past as fast I could to their satisfaction where they didn’t feel the need to give chase but the relief I felt was short lived as I realized I would have to go past them again on my way home!! I decided to think about that later. So I continued on my way and at one point I took a wrong turn so I corrected myself and continued on. Just as I’m about to start getting onto the highway I realize that one of the bungee cords holding my bag on is missing! So I circle back retracing my steps and am basically just heading home (I’d been out for about an hour). As I’m going I pass a really beautiful field that I wanted to take a picture of my first time going by so this time I pulled over into the field and took a photo. I then continued on and five minutes later I realized that THE OTHER BUNGEE CORD WAS GONE AS WAS MY ELECTRONICS BAG. The one with my passport, key to my bike lock, keyboard, solar charger, phone and basically all my important things in it. SOOOOO I circle back on my circling back and as I’m passing the field I stopped to take a photo in I see my electronics bag in the field. At the same time I notice this out of the corner of my eye I see a movement from the road. I look back and see two enormous German Shepherds racing across their yards (UNFENCED, UNTIED I might add) towards me barking. I think to myself that at least I know where my bag is and bike away thinking they’ll lose interest but NOPE. They begin chasing me down the road. At this point I’m having a panic attack because I have no idea where I am and there is no one around me it’s all field. A van is coming down the road behind the dogs and attempts to slow them down so I can get away but they don’t realize that I’m panicking about my freakin’ bag! I’m sure they were thinking to themselves “what is this chick DOING we’re trying to help her and she’s just sitting there with her hand on her head” because that is literally what I was doing. Well so I bike off in hopes of stopping the first car I see and asking them if they know the owners of the property with the dogs but no one comes. So on I go until I come across a man working in his garage. I give him a run down of the situation and he offers to take me back home and scoop up my bag. So we load up my bike into his truck and are off. We stop for him to hop out, grab my bag and then continue on our way. That’s when I realized I don’t know what house is Julie’s! The houses are kind of similar around her so I don’t know her house number! I call Julie who gives me her house number and the man drops me off with my bike. I wave goodbye and go inside to read for the rest of the day, a very danger-FREE activity. Later that night it occurred to me that this would be an issue I might run into more often. Julie brings it up to her husband, Jim who gives me a couple of mace like bottle of spray called Halt! It is specifically for aggressive dogs and sprays up to ten feet. This makes me feel better and I put one in my basket and one in my bags. We closed the night out by watching a movie that of course I can’t remember the name of now but it was about a man who does the Camino del San Gabriel I believe is the route name. It’s a two month journey from France to somewhere I think in Italy. (Really, I’m terrible with details) Anyways it’s with Martin Sheen and was just fantastic and I highly highly HIGHLY recommend it.

Saturday

Saturday Julie and I explored Fort Worth and kind of historical areas of town along with a beautiful water garden. I wish I had a way to upload the photos I took with my real camera not on my phone but when I have access to a computer I will I promise! That night we went to the movie Winter’s Tale which I loved. It was right up my alley with it’s magical fantasy-like story. We went to Walmart afterwards where I got heavy duty tent stakes because the ones I have that CAME with my tent were just not doing the trick. That night I packed up everything and went through a few things that I could afford to lose from my bag. I mapped out my trip for the following day which apparently would end with me still being in Forth Worth and not in the greatest of neighborhoods according to Julie so we planned. The New Plan was that she would drop me off the next day in Cleburn, TX where I would then bike 30 miles to Granbury, TX where I had a host family I could stay with.

Sunday

As planned Julie and I departed for Cleburn and of course as soon as I headed off I had to pee. I had nothing but open country road ahead of me and no signs of life. The first house I stopped at there was no sign of a dog so I went up and knocked hoping to beg for the use of their bathroom. As I’m knocking who comes around the corner of the house but a a big collie dog. I think my heart stopped functioning for a second as I grabbed my Halt. I opened with ”hi doggy!” (more like hi doggy? as I was basically asking if the dog was nice) because I really don’t WANT to spray a dog with Mace unless he’s hell-bent set on ripping my throat out. The dog wagged his tale and limped to me. That’s when i noticed that he was a very old guy. We became friends and he followed me as I walked to the other side of the house knocking. No one was home so I bid my new little friend goodbye and biked away. Finally after about 5 miles I couldn’t wait any longer. I couldn’t just go on the side of the road either because pretty much all of Texas property is fenced in and even though I was on a pretty much abandoned stretch of road I didn’t want to risk having a truck pass me while my pants are down.
I very VERY cautiously approached a house and knocked. When an old man answered I explained my situation and he let me in to use the bathroom. Off I went feeling much better.
So, concerning dogs. In the days before the problem arose I would be super bummed if I couldn’t find a property with it’s gates opened. Now I spend my time praying that the gates will be closed and tightly dog proof. I made it to Granbury around 3:30 which was the best time I had made so far on my trip. I rolled up the host house and was greeted graciously by Rick and his wife Jeanne. It was their daughter’s 18th birthday that Tuesday so they were having a birthday dinner for her. I hurried to shower and change into presentable clothing. Dinner was delicious, a spinach burritos (they weren’t burritos but of course I cannot think of the word…not empanadas…uhhhh something with an E darnit.) Anyways we had chocolate mousse for dessert which was SOOO good. Jeanne’s mother and her mother’s friend were also there and they made great company! The bed I was in was SO comfortable that I ended up sleeping in the next morning and starting a few hours behind schedule. I was really sore though from being back on the bike after 4 days rest so it was fine.

Monday
Monday was pretty quiet, I was biking to a town called Stephensville. I was exhausted from the start, however and only made it about 12 miles. First I knocked on the property of a big house and company that specialized in making Chicken Coops. They had a phone number up so I called that. (Mind you as I’m standing at the gate I have my mace in my hand like a crazy person but I’m just not taking any risks with dogs.) The woman I spoke with on the phone rolled up in her golf cart and was VERY nice. She told me that she was going out of the town that night or else she would have let me stay but that I could try the neighbors. I did just that and they were very gracious and let me camp. They also had three horses (a baby!) and a puppy. (a chocolate lab!) I befriended the puppy and worked on the pony. She was super sweet with blue eyes. I think I was more nervous than she was. If you know me than you know I’m not a huge horse fan because once when I was little I went on a horse tour and my horses started running with me. …Ever since then I’ve been afraid. But this little girl was sweet and let me pet her nose which was really soft. I set up my tent and went to sleep.

Tuesday

On Tuesday I was determined to make better time than the previous day. I decided that it was faster to go North instead of continuing on to Stephensville. I had no problems that day with dogs except at the end of the day when I was turning up Hwy 281, noticed it was about 4pm and I needed to stop for the day. I approached the first big property. Of course a dog came out and by this time I hd already dismounted my bike and walked up to the gate. (Mace in hand) The woman who finally came out told me that I could NOT stay on her land but I could try Natty Flat. …What’s that? I was like okaaay and knocked on the the next door neighbors house. No one home. I really had to pee. I kept going. Then I approached a huge property with a GIANT rocking chair in front of it. There was also a sign stating that this was Natty Flat and Texas Hill Country Furniture and Smokehouse. …I assumed this is what the woman had been talking about. I leaned my bike up on the wall and entered the store. Laid out my situation and the girls thought I could camp there. They called their grandfather in to confirm and he asked me a few questions about myself and trip and then said yes. I was exhausted and very grateful. Once I put my bike away we looked at the map and routed out the way I could take next with the least amount of hills which was great because I’d heard that I would have had some big ones if I had gone the way I planned previously. There were a lot of very friendly dogs on this property including little puppies which I cuddled up of course. One of the girls bought my dinner that night which was very sweet of her and it was delicious. I had fudge for desert which I could have eaten forever. After the smokehouse closed one of the employees, Colin, came over to my tent and said if I wanted to I could climb the giant rocking chair which is apparently the largest cedar rocker in the world and they built it there themselves! I know I’ve seen photos of it but I love that I came across it purely by accident! So I got to climb up into the chair which was about 25 feet tall!

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Colin told me that for breakfast I absolutely HAD to eat something called a fried pie. So I went to sleep and the next morning woke up to discover that I had a flat tire.

Wednesday

After I discovered the flat tire (thankfully before I had loaded up my bike, and I believe my Grandma had a hand in that so THANKS) I decided to eat breakfast and then deal with it. I had gone a good distance the previous day so I didn’t really need to go until about 10:30. I went into the smokehouse and ordered a fried pie, peach and apple. I honestly think that the peach fried pie is the best thing I have ever bitten into. Like…ever. My mouth is watering just typing about it. It’s basically a pie except that the pie crust is like an empanada (that word just keeps coming up doesn’t it? lol) and then deep fried and glazed. DOESN’T THAT SOUND LIKE HEAVEN!?!? HOOOO. I’m not joking it was just so. freaking. yum. …Now that I’ve devoted literally an entire paragraph to the pie I will move on lol.

I changed my tire VERY successfully (be proud of me Brands be proud) only to realize that…my bike pump sucks. At first I couldn’t get it to be the right tire valve (Shraeder is my tire) I picked up my phone to call Kerry, my dad, my sister, my mom…anyone who I could whimper to. And then I thought to myself okay, none of those people are going to be able to help you right now. They’re all going to say that sucks, that’s too bad, what are you going to do? Who can you call etc etc and that will get you nowhere. Whoooo could I call…Perfomance Bike! So I called the Dallas Performance Bike (since I’d bought the pump in a perfomance bike) and the guy walked me through my bike pump ( I felt really stupid afterwards.) Well so after I hung up the phone and start pumping I then realized that my pump does inDEED suck. It would only pump so much air into the tire, so little that it doesn’t even register on the gauge. Luckily one of the guys at Natty Flat had a pump that was electronic and ran off of his car!! Later, upon discussing it with my sister I realized that my Grandma totally had to have a hand in all of that. Off I set onto the road 2 hours behind schedule but determined to make some headway since it was supposed to be a long day.

It didn’t take me long to get up the highway to Interstate 20 which I actually loved because the service road was separate from the actual interstate and basically deserted with the occasional truck. I am getting very paranoid about dogs. I’ve mastered this kind of equivalent to tiptoeing past a dog. I have also started seeing dogs where there aren’t dogs. I had a panic attack going up a horrible hill because I saw two fluffy short tails wagging and then I realized they were goats. Go ahead and laugh because I sure did (crazily and with a lot of relief).
So that day about 15 miles down the road I stopped for lunch leaning up against a road sign. I saw a park ranger in a truck just chillin’ behind me and decided to ask him how far the Gordon exit was which was where I was heading. This guy man…I could just shake him. Allow me to explain. Once he found out of my bike trip he had all kinds of depressing information. 1. Rattlesnakes. He says oh you’d better be looking out for them!! They come out onto the road and if you don’t buckle down at night they’ll come into your sleeping bag with you. You’ll start seeing them every 20 feet or so. I spent the rest of the day looking out for not only dogs but rattlesnakes. Greeeat. 2. He started lecturing me on how I should be using a bike trailer instead of carrying my bags on my bike because I’m wearing it down. I’m trying to be as nice to him s I can but I really felt attacked like, hello dude, I’m in the middle of TEXAS FROM NEW YORK. I’M HERE ALREADY, would you like me to just quit so I can go get a trailer so I don’t wear down my bike? A bike I bought FOR THE TRIP MIND YOU. I was very irritated but just made conversation and went on my way.
5 miles down the road I took the Gordon exit and realized it was about 4pm (stopping time). I was approaching a big property with a truck idling in the entryway so I pulled up to the truck and asked the man if I could camp on his land. He said “I don’t see why not!” and drove off to town. As I pulled my bike into the property I realized my luck. This was a huge field of land a pond and a boat in the pond! It was just gorgeous. I set up my tent and by this time Donny (the man) had returned. We sat in front of his trailer and discussed my trip, football and life over cans of Coke. I asked him about rattlesnakes and he kind of stared at me puzzled for a second before saying “…it’s winter, there aren’t any rattlesnakes out yet” I told him what the park ranger had said and he told me the guy had been trying to scare me because the rattlesnakes wouldn’t be out for another month and a half or so. I felt better but still nervous. I ate my Clif bar dinner floating on my back in the rowboat in the little pond and watched the clouds of the setting sun.

It was my so serene, my favorite day! There was a power pole across the field from my tent near the entry to the property so I plugged in my ipod. Later that night I needed to go and get it but it was pitch black out and I was terrified. II had my Dad on the phone with me the whole time while I babbled on about rattlesnakes while keeping my ears perked up for a wild pig Donny had said he kept seeing. I have never been so scared, even with two flashlights. I glanced up at the sky and realized that because I was so in the dark the stars were ENORMOUS and so bright, but I only enjoyed them for a second before going back to Rattlesnake duty.
That night the wind blew like I had never experienced and I was so thankful that I’d bought my extra strength tent stakes because surely I would have been uprooted and blown away. In the morning I had NOT blown away but it was chilly so I slept in a little.

Thursday

So I departed from Donny’s about 10:30 in the morning and I knew it was going to be a rough day. The wind had not died down much since that night. Every single pedal was a battle directly into the wind. It was a pretty quiet uneventful day except passing through the town of Strawn for lunch. I met several women who were very interested and curious about my trip. The woman who worked at the place I ate helped me find a place to stay that night, about 5 miles away). I had confirmation from the local Sheriff as well that I could camp there so that me feel better. Up Highway 16 I went until I found the historical old schoolhouse that would be my campsite. I picked a place far enough from the schoolhouse that I wasn’t creeped out (it was old and a little spooky) but still hidden from the traffic of the highway which was right on the front stoop of the schoolhouse’s property. I peeped into the window of the school and all the old desks were cobwebbed and…it was very eerie seeming. I had been warned about coyotes being out and that they wouldn’t bother me so I wasn’t TOO concerned … until I found some coyote poop near my campsite. I got a little nervous but decided once I was in my tent to just not leave ever again. Ass I was drifting off to sleep I heard the coyotes begin to howl for the first time which was beautiful sounding and also very spooky considering my location. I slept a little nervously about being so close to the highway but knowing I was hidden unless someone stopped in the middle of the night to see the school which I knew no one SHOULD be doing.

Friday

I woke up on Friday morning FREEZING cold and able to see my breath. There was a light frost on the ground. I was cold dangit. I knew that I had a relatively long trip ahead of me. The next town was Breckenridge and it was at LEAST 30 miles from Highway 180 which I hadn’t even reached yet and since I had literally no phone reception I didn’t know how close I was. Once I turned onto 180 I saw that I had about 32 miles ahead of me. No town to rest at. It was gonna be a warm day and I needed to think wisely with my water. To make a long day short: I did great and arrived in Breckenridge around 3:30 pm. I had no issues with dogs, I didn’t run out of water and I wasn’t exhausted and dying! It was a 36 miles day for me, which is the best I have done so far . I got permission from the local parks department to camp at the city park. It was an utterly uneventful night broken only by another frozen morning.

Saturday
The next town was 30 miles away (Albany, TX) and while I hoped to get there I wasn’t very optimistic because once I got up and moving I realized something was wrong with my left leg. As I biked I felt it pulling oddly but figured it wasn’t warmed up yet. It didn’t really HURT it just felt weird. At some point I realized it was just straight up injured because it had started to really hurt and even after putting icy hot on it and having no result or change I looked at my leg and the muscle was actually swollen. I started walking my bike. I called Kerry and asked her to google how far I was from the town. 11 miles. Crap. No sooner did THAT happen but I found myself across from a property where I was suddenly being confronted by two big white German shepherds. I thought to myself it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay…they’re behind a fence. And then I watched in horror as they WIGGLED UNDER THEIR FENCE. So at that point they’re preparing to cross the highway barking angrily at me the whole time and I’m starting to call to them to keep back and then they’re still coming so I start screaming for help from their owner who never shows up. So THEN I start trying to flag for help. A truck stopped thankfully and I explained to him about my leg and the dogs who had of course since wiggled back under their stupid fence. Well the truck driver ends up being even more gracious than I could ever hope for and gives me a lift into the town I’m heading to, Albany. I exhaustedly pedal to the library to see it’s closed, so then I just go down the street hoping to find something and I happen upon a methodist church. As I’m rolling my bike up the front ramp the pastor comes out and asks me how I am. I explain myself and ask if I could camp on the church’s property for two days to let my leg (which at this point is KILLING me) heal. He says to me that if they were (the church) to put me up somewhere would I do that? Of course I said (I haven’t showered for 5 days at this point haha so the thought of a shower was enough to have me dying for water) So the Albany, TX United Methodists Church put me up in a motel (a very cool looking one, very old fashioned looking on the outside, I have a photo on my camera so at a computer I’ll post it). II took a glorious shower, and then promptly fell asleep while icing my leg. Eventually I woke up and organized myself for the next day where I had told Pastor Tim I would speak at church about my trip.

Sunday

Sunday morning Betty, Pastor Tim’s wife picked me up for church breakfast. During the service I got up and told the story of my trip and how my Grandma inspired me etc etc. After service I got to speak with several nice members of the church all of whom told me I should be prepared for the three hills outside of town. After service we went to lunch at a different church where I stuffed myself with coconut cake haha Later I was dropped off at the motel where I had a pretty low key evening and an early bedtime.

Monday

Monday morning arrived much too early. I had tossed and turned all night with worry and nightmares about dogs attacking me. I had hoped to leave at 10 and didn’t depart util 11. Pastor Tim was kind enough to bring me breakfast and coffee which really helped get me going.
The first hill was IMMEDIATELY as soon as I started up the road. I was really hurting within 5 minutes. I was grouchy, I was scared of dogs,it was gloomy and I was angry with myself for being so slow. I did something I never do while riding because I don’t want to run my battery down: I called a friend. Kathy picked up and told me she was babysitting her niece but she could still talk. She stayed on the phone with me and chatted with me, made me laugh and calmed me down about basically everything for all three of those huge hills until I lost signal. By then I was in a much better mood, I had changed my playlist to something more upbeat and my leg was feeling a little better. Thank you Taco for cheering me up and making me remember that I want this trip to succeed. I only was going 25 miles that day to a town called Lueders. Monroe, a man in the congregation in Albany had told Pastor Tim about his friend Cindy who lives there who I could stay with! It was about 4 miles north of Highway 180. Once I got out of my funk I was flying down the highway and enjoying myself again. efore I knew it I saw the turn off to go up to Lueders! I called Cindy and made my way to the camp which turned out to be a large motel-like facility with a fun looking lake and summer christian camp for teens! A friendly woman named Jodi told me Cindy wasn’t back yet but she put me in a room and let me settle in telling me that dinner was at 6pm. ….OOOOH DINNER.
I changed my clothes and went exploring, befriending one of the local dogs on the property named Woodrow. He is a chocolate lab with golden eyes like my sister’s dog Ben, who I adore with all my heart.

That night I walked up to the dining hall for dinner and was introduced to an entire mission group of seniors who were there for a few weeks to help repair things around the camp. Everyone was very friendly and curious about my trip. Towards the end of the meal a woman came up to me and introduced herself as Cindy. Immediately I felt like it was seeing an old friend, we hugged and she sat right down. After dinner I helped clear the dishes and clean the kitchen. That night we agreed that maybe I could stay for a few days in exchange for helping out cleaning rooms and stuff Cindy would give me a ride to Snyder a town about 4 days down the road. This would be perfect for me because I could then let my leg get all the way better AND it was supposed to get REALLY cold the next few days.

Tuesday–Wednesday
So friends at this point I am still in Lueders, TX. I’m enjoying myself immensly as I get advice from everyone on the mission team. Cindy has been putting a fear of wild hogs in me. Did you know that if a wild hog catches you IT WILL EAT YOU. STRAIGHT UP EAT YOU. And wild hogs are, apparently, QUITE prevalent in Texas, NM and AZ. So, if I don’t die by dog or rattlesnake, I will die by hog if not that mountain lion and then bears. A woman asked me last night about if someone were to come into my tent and I used the term ”breaking into my tent” and she goes how does one ”break into” a tent. I think I choked on my food from laughing so hard, because it’s true. Everyone here is so funny, they all banter and joke amongst themselves which reminds me of how my grandma interacted with the people at her church.

Until next time! …unless I am eaten by wild hogs.

Austin – Waco, It’s warm, it’s hot, it’s hilly, it’s gorgeous, it’s freezing. Take Your Pick

Well hi there! It’s been like 6 days! I have a lot to tell you about!! Let’s start with Saturday morning.

So Saturday morning I woke up and showered and Courtney made me a delicious breakfast of oatmeal with nuts and fruit etc and eggs with tea. (Yay thanks!) I had pretty much organized the night before as best as I could so the morning wouldn’t be too difficult but it still wasn’t easy that’s for damn sure.

I had done a few practice tours but if you will remember my front rack came only one day before I had to turn over my bike for shipping so I was only able to totally load the bike ONE time prior to my trip. Let’s just say that having EVERYTHING on my bike was waaay heavier than I thought it would be. At one point the bike tipped over and it took some tugging and a lot of huffing and puffing to get it back up again (and as we do so Courtney goes ”you’ve done HOW many practice tours with your bike full loaded?” …er …fully loaded you say? lol) As we rolled Evelyn (poor poor loaded down Evelyn) out the door I was getting more and more terrified because bike home from the bike shop had given me a little taste of what the hills were going to be like that day and I wasn’t wrong. As I said to Kerry later that day, if my bike falls over with me on it I will not get up again as I will have been crushed.
Within a few miles I was noticing that every time I was trying to switch my bike into the lowest gear it was jumping off the rear dérailleur. I pulled over and kept fixing it block after block and then finally I noticed that across the street was a bike shop. I crossed the street and rolled in and the guy actually picked up my bike entirely (insane) and put it on the rack. He was kind enough to do a gear adjustment and send me on my way free of charge. ( Thanks for that!! )

The next issue I was running into was the fact that because I was using the GPS to guide me since I was using the bike route given by google maps I was draining my battery on my phone fast and an issue I hadn’t calculated was that my charging cord was too short to use WHILE biking and watching the map! When I stopped for lunch (and to collapse with exhaustion) I let it just sit in the blazing sun and it STIll wasn’t charging fast enough.. I’ll be honest with you I had initially intended to stop and adjust the phone cord but it turned into Maria’s Fallen and Can’t Get Up Let’s Make This Lunch Time and charge time. I totally fell asleep on the side of the road despite trying to stay awake.

After about another 3 hours of biking through hills that killed me and imagining in my head my Future Legs of America I realized that there was no way I was going to make the 30 mile goal I had set for myself. I started to panic as it was clear that I was still in Austin and my phone was about to die. I had just happened by a community center which luckily had outlets on the outside. I plugged in and sat down to panic and plot. I called the Austin REI, the Round Rock REI and googled the closest churches. Since I didn’t really know the territory I wasn’t sure how fast they would be from me so I stopped a couple walking to ask if they knew. They helped me google and found one just down the hill I had come up. I rolled down there and to my dismay the parking lot didn’t have a single car. I walked up to the door and tried just in case but nope, it was locked (I don’t know what I expected on a Saturday afternoon). Just then I noticed that a Sheriff up the road was having a ”conversation” with someone (I haven’t a clue what it was for so I’m just going to say a conversation lol). I ran up to them and practically threw myself on their mercy and to my horror I almost cried…I was SO tired. They were so gracious and kind and called the library up the street (yes the same hill haha) and the library agreed to let me sleep in their parking lot. I bid the sheriff’s department goodbye and trembled my way up the hill. The manager, Britney (Brittany?) was VERY nice and showed me where I could camp, told me I could use the library for facilities until it closed and that the library didn’t open the next day until 1 so it wasn’t a rush situation to leave. After locking up my bike I collapsed inside and texted with Kerry about what was happening.
As I was setting up my tent a guy who introduced himself as Horus walked up to me to chat about the tent and my trip and I told him about the dillema with my phone cord. I got my whole tent set up and cozy which was perfectly timed as it was getting dark out and I was particularly happy that I had internet from the library to video chat with Kerry and Caitlin. After the long day I had had it was fantastic to see faces I love. As I was cozying up I heard the sound of a dog collar and ears being shook ( I love that sound because Phoenix always did that at night) and discovered that Horus had returned with A LONGER PHONE CORD FOR ME. (THANK YOU SO SO MUCH) We chit chatted a little longer and went our ways. I slept like a rock until 7am. Woke up, broke camp, and off I went.

DAY TWO
In the morning when I woke up I realized my phone was still low on battery so after about an hour I stopped at a little taco place called Los Jaliscienses (512.252.8389) to charge my I’ve Fallen and Can’t Get Up button that my dad bought for me. They were very very nice bringing me cup after cup of coffee. Once I was charged up like 50% I set back out for the day. There were still hills but overall it wasn’t bad and I got to go through some cool parks and bike trails. At about 1pm my phone was still dying faster than it was charging (I think because the GPS just plain kills the battery) so I stopped at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Round Rock (which had been my goal the night before) to charge and get some coffee. As soon as I walked in the door everyone there was so nice to me! The bartender let me bring my bike it, the manager came and chatted with me about my trip and then told me lunch was on him (Thanks it was sooooo yummy and made a delicious dinner too). I talked with him, the hostess and bartender for about an hour while I charged and ate and just plain enjoyed myself. Upon consulting the map and Chris (the bartender) I decided I would be aiming to get to a truck and rest stop where people can shower and sleep if they’re exhausted. It was apparently only like 10 miles or so up the road.
From there I headed on to go through more bike trails including oe called San Gabriel Trail which was just beautiful with ducks and lots of people with their dogs.

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Lots of big hills but flying down them was wonderful. I passed a few cows who stared at me as I called ”HELLOO COWS!!!” and then, finally, I encountered the interstate! I was greatly relieved to see that there was a service road on the side of the interstate so I could ride on that instead of the straight up interstate. I also met my first unfriendly dog. I didn’t even notice it until it was practically right at my heels and let me tell you it wasn’t happy at all. It chased me for a bout 200 feet before it gave up and I was biking as fast as I could.

Suddenly it was about 5:30 and this truck stop was nowhere to be found and I was exhausted! My phone had long since died and I hadn’t minded thinking that the truck stop would be coming shortly and I knew I was going up the interstate for quite a ways anyway. I know that sunset is at 6:13 and I was starting to worry. It got to the point where I almost used my emergency button to ask them to look up the truck stop, but I wasn’t sure if my dad had to pay per emergency (lol) or what so I decided better not risk it over directions. I finally came to terms with the fact that I was not going to find the truck stop that night. I pulled over to a gate where I could see a house waaaay off in the distance and called a little feebly (lol I’m not joking I was so so tired) and upon not getting any response and being nervous about dogs again I turned to go on. I know I had panic tears happening and I allowed myself literally one sob before pedaling on. Half a mile down the road there was a huge gravel driveway with an enormous sign announcing OPEN ROAD BIKER CHURCH. Fate much? I walked my bike up the driveway because I was too tired to pedal even one more time. I knocked on the door and discovered it was open, but there wasn’t anyone there. I used the restroom and then walked to the back of the property where I could see houses and hoped it was attached so I could ask there if I might camp. I had to walk through bushes and trees but I made it to the house area. There were two houses to choose from and the one on the right had a huge dog outside and I couldn’t see if it was on a leash or not. After my escapade with the first dog chasing me I decided to try my luck with the house on the left. I walked up calling ‘HellooOOOo” and hearing what sounded like a very vicious little dog inside. No one was home. I walked nervously towards the second house as the dog was watching me watch it. I called out ‘Hiii puppy!” trying for a friendly sounding voice. Immediately the dog jumped up (I could see the lead that he was on) and started wagging his tail, doing the play pose and generally begging me to come play with him. I was in love immediately, he had gold eyes and was a half white half brindle pittie. So while I petted him with one hand and held up the bike with the other I hoped the owners of the house would hear me and come out so I could ask about the church. A woman came walking down the the road with her baby stroller heading towards the Chihuaha House and I asked her about the church. She said she was sure it was fine but that she would call and ask. I bid farewell to the sweet puppy and headed back to the churchyard.

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Once I was back into the church area I sat down, watched the sunset and after plugging in my phone I explored a little.

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I found a business card with the phone number for the pastor (Pastor Butch) so I called and left him a voicemail. After about an hour I decided to hope he said yes and set up my tent. I had just finished setting up and getting all situated when he returned my call confirming what the neighbor had said, that it was totally fine. He said that he and his wife, Karen, were coming up to turn off the lights and lock up so I would get to meet them which I was glad for. They arrived about half an hour later telling me that there was supposed to be a storm and that I could sleep in the church if I could lock up before I left. I was extremely grateful that they would trust me with staying in their church with their belongings inside. I brought my stuff (left my tent outside) in and ate my dinner (passstttaaaa and tortillas with peanut butter and a clif bar). I video chatted with Caitlin and Rick for a few minutes, routed out my map for the next day (easy, up the interstate) and read a pamphlet that Pastor Butch had given me. I then fell promptly asleep until 8:30 the next morning. I had decided that the next stop was Waco, TX where I had a host waiting or me and while I could technically make it there in two days it would be pushing myself too hard so I decided to try to make it for three days.

DAY THREE
The next morning I packed up camp and headed out later than I wanted to but feeling good because my phone and spare battery where all charged up AND i didn’t even need the GPS because I knew I was going up the interstate. I had told myself no more long lunches like the day before because I was on a deadline, dammit!
It was cold.
It was SO cold.
I bundled up rolled off! I knew I had a tough day ahead of me with nothing but interstate, with 34 degree weather AND with a wind from the NW blowing me the whole entire time and let me tell you it was not easy. It wasn’t particularly fun that day either. I couldn’t even muster up the energy to say hello to cows as I passed them. I did find that rest stop about 3 hours down the road so I am VERY glad I didn’t continue trying to find it the night before. I decided to stop there for lunch around 115 and met several interesting and nice people, a newlywed couple heading home to Michigan, a woman who hugged me as soon as I turned to her which made me SO happy because you guys know how I love hugs and to be almost a week with no hugs was a bummer and a man who chatted with me about a VERY cool sounding ride/walk that you do in Europe that sounds fascinating and of course I can’t remember the name of. (If I ever mention you in a story and don’t name you please don’t be insulted I’m TERRIBLE with names). After indulging in a little bag of chips along with my clif bar I was off! Only about 2.5 hours later I realized that I was done for the day and that it was going to rain. I pulled up to a gate with a videocamera in front of it and waved as obviously unthreateningly as possible in hopes that they would open the gate for me. When that didn’t work I called out in case any dogs were on the property to come and attack The Intruder. When THAT didn’t work I went into the gate and walked down the road to the house in the distance calling out helllloooo the whole time. I ended up going up and knocking on the door and a very adorable little bulldog came barrelling out to say hello. The guy said that yes, I could pop up my tent on the edge of the property. As I was walking back to where I had left my bike just by the gate another truck pulled up. A guy jumped out and said that if I walked along the property past where the road ends the fence would also end and I would be safe in the trees where no one could see me. It was a little interesting to do that as to my right was the fence and to my left was the incline straight down to the interstate (and lots of construction). Once I was in the trees and on the property I was utterly invisible. I set up my tent juuust as it started to rain, and also at this point it was FREEZING cold. Like the weather said it was 30 degrees ‘felt like 23’. I could see my breath and was shivering despite all my layers. In my tent I pulled out my winter coat and put on, basically, all the clothes I had with me. Once I was IN my sleeping bag for awhile I warmed up nice and toasty (but it did take awhile) I also stuffed my face with two clif bars and two tortillas with PB not just beCAUSE I was hungry but because I knew I was colder because I was hungry. Once in my bag I was warm, I was cozy and I had a full phone battery so I was happy. I called my Dad, Mom, Kerry’s Mama and my sister. I read a book on kindle for an hour and then fell asleep and slept all night, even sweating a little because I was too hot (lol imagine!). The weather forecast for the next day called for freezing rain and light snow! I knew I wasn’t going to be biking in that so I texted Andy my host for the next night and asked if he could pick me up the next day. He was so gracious and said of course, that he could even come that night but I was snugged up already so it was okay for the next day.

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The next morning a crow woke me up by banging on the roof of my tent screaming at me because I was in his tree apparently or something like that. I’m not even joking, I could see him sitting on my rainfly and poking the tent with his beak, I was genuinely worried he would puncture it because I know their beaks are weapons. Once I had camp down and my bike packed, Andy and I agreed to meet at a hospital just up the hill from me. He scooped me up and we were off to his and his family’s home which is where I am writing you this blog. I just ate legit four slices of pizza and can’t wait for dinner haha. I had a beautiful BEAUTIFUL shower in and am greatly enjoying my company and being clean. =)

In conclusion:

I am really enjoying meeting all the friendly people that I am meeting. I was saying to Andy that it makes a great difference meeting people who encourage you than grumpies who bring you down. I like having my iPod with me because if I find internet I can facetime with my friends and see their faces. I can’t wait to meet more people!! Until next time!!

A TON of junk in the trunk …of my bike.

A TON of junk in the trunk ...of my bike.

Fiddling around for awhile this afternoon resulted in my final rear setup barring no issues with sleeping bag placement up front. I still plan to stop up on water bottles and bungee cord them everywhere I can. Everything in the rear bags are documented and accounted for, plus I’m totally digging the sweet blanket I got from a friend. It’s the only “too heavy to justify but still bringing it along” item that I’m indulging in.