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

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.