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

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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

So I stopped for lunch at a little liiiiittle town.

This little puppy was watching me go in.  I bent over to try and pet him but she was SUPER skittish and back away but at the same time kept coming back like she really DID want to be petted.  After 5 minutes I gave up and went inside.  Half an hour later when I came out I had forgotten all about her.  I put on my helmet and turned around to put on my backpack and she was standing RIGHT behind me wagging her tail so hard, clearly VERY pleased to see me.  As SOON as I bent down she ran to me for petting.  I sat on the ground and crawled into me lap and flipped over on her back for a belly rub!  I sat with her for another 20 minutes because she was just so sweet and tremlby like ..I don’t know if she was so used to getting love.  When I stood up I picked her up and she cuddle right in and tucked her head in the crook of my neck and I WAS SMITTEN.  I moed us to the sunlight and we cuddled for another ten minutes before I had to HAD to leave.  She kept jumping up and begging me not to leave and it was SO HARD, but she had a collar and a nice little layer of fat so I know she did have a home somewhere.  I needed some hugs and cuddles though especially after being chased by 4 separate dogs today.  ❤

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