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

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The Hills Are Alive….With the Sounds of Maria Gasping for Air

Well, friends, I survived the weekend.  I don’t even know how to start.  But in the spirit of the Sound of Music headline let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.

I woke up on Saturday morning at 3:20 am.  Laid in bed for ten minutes, realized my phone hadn’t been charging all night so all I had was my spare battery, and then got up, showered, put on my bike clothes and headed off into the dark and drizzle to catch the 4:50am train into the city.  When I got to the station I realized one thing that hadn’t crossed my mind:  there is no elevator at the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) station I go to.  The escalator was my only option.  No big deal right?  Wroooong.  I rolled my bike onto the escalator expecting it to be easy peasy, not realizing that when something is heavy it’s going to be affected by gravity.  As soon as my back tire was off the ground my bike started falling backwards.  It took all my strength, lots of gasping, and my body holding the handlebars to keep Evelyn from falling back down to the ground level.  As this is happening I hear my train rumbling in arrival.  I started shouting to the ONE other person on the platform to hold the train for me, because if I missed this train the day was screwed.  I made it to the top FINALLY, boarded train and I was off!  Today was going to be great!!

Once I got into Penn Station (with 1.5 batteries for the next two days) the next issue was getting to the subway.  So this is my setup:

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Apparently I looked like a homeless person because suddenly two homeless bag women approached me and asked me if I was new and where was I from.  I explained that I was just biking and waterproofed my sleeping bag with the garbage bag.  They were really friendly and told me where I could find an elevator that would making getting to the subway platform much easier.  One of them walked with me and chit chatted the whole way.  I got on the elevator, then on the subway up to 177th street.

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Evelyn’s first time on the NYC Subway!!

Once I got to 175th street (which is apparently the 177th street stop, I didn’t know and a nice woman told me thank god.  I get out and into the subway to discover:  THE ELEVATOR IS CLOSED FOR REPAIRS.  I rolled my bike to the stairs and stared up them in horror.  How the hell was I going to get my bike up the steps?!? Finally a nice guy showed up, put his coffee down and together we dragged Evelyn up the stairs.  Once at the top he went on his way and I went on mine….to the next two flights of stairs.  There was no one to help me with these so slowly, step by step, I lifted Evelyn’s enormous ass up the stairs.  I have never been so happy to stand in the New York City rain as I was at the top of those stairs.  Biked a block west to the George Washington Bridge Bike Route 9 entrance. It was so steep I had to walk the ramp up to the actual bridge itself.  As I’m doing this people running are passing me and racing on into the misty morning.  Finally, I was on the bridge!  YAY!  My day was going to be great!  Crossed the bridge and began what was to be a very long and exhaustively interesting day.

Within twenty minutes I knew I was in trouble.  Let me remind you, I live on Long Island.  We have no real hills on the island, much less mountainous hills.  As road biker after road biker zipped past me with their serious important faces I started wondering if I was going to survive the day (not for the last time either).  Finally, just as I had began a very huffy puffy version of ”If I Could Be Her” by ZZ Ward I hear a voice behind me as how long I’ve been on the road.  I gave him a quick run down of what I was up to.  He biked with me for about ten minutes, telling me about when he would bike tour in his younger days (the guy was like in his 60’s).  Eventually he wished me lucked and was on his way.  I must say, friendly readers, if it wasn’t for that one encouraging guy I might not have kept going.

About ten miles down the road I came to a three way stop where I could go left or right.  The sign in front of me said Bike Route 9 was to the right.  All the zippy bikers were going to the left.  Hmmm…. I pulled out my map which didn’t help much.  Eventually I decided to just stick to the route in case I lost my way.  I turned right…right down a hill, which obviously led to having to turn left again.  I was looking up THE biggest hill I had ever seen.  Now, this was a residential neighborhood so as I began my little roll up the hill there’s a couple standing outside their house having a truly romantic moment and someone is taking a photo (I REALLY wish it was a video as this would have been great).  So there they are having their moment and there I go in the background literally moaning and gasping and making, I’m sure, a very attractive facial expression.  As soon as I had passed them far enough away for them to not see me, I hopped off my bike and proceeded to moan and gasp WALKING my bike up the hill.  At the top I turned right and watched the bikers again.  APPARENTLY they all knew about the hill and that if they turned left they would avoid the hill altogether.  I knew I should have followed them.

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Piermont, NY

Once I got back on track I found myself going through an ADORABLE little town called Piermont.  It was RIGHT along the Hudson and every single house was enormous and adorable.  Some of them were run down and creepy and gorgeous and others were perfectly painted and chic.  The view of the water was incredible!  At this point I saw my tent was getting uncomfortable so I stopped to adjust it.  While doing that my handlebars tipped over and in my attempt to keep the entire bike from falling, I twisted the whole entire handlebar around.  It took the sound of my brake cable ripping for me to even realize that something was wrong.  Part of the brake metal was twisted and all the cables were weird and….. crap.  I can, again, either go home, get it fixed somewhere, or go on using only my rear brake.  I then realized that the Piermont Bicycle Connection was RIGHT THERE.  So, they fixed it for me, better than before!  Annnnnd I was off!

Eventually I got to another hill that I also had to walk up, this one seemed never ending.  At the top, except it WASN’T THE TOP, I found a gas station.  Spoke with a man who then gave me the best news ever:  THERE WAS A BIGGER HILL IMMEDIATELY TO FOLLOW!  Great.  I walked my ass halfway up that mountain and then pulled over and collapsed in the grass of the Knights of Columbus of South Nyack.  I was only like 10-15 miles away from my goal.  Called my friend Tom who then says ”Where are you?”  “UM…Collapsed on the side of the road”  At this point it’s noon exactly.  Tom said I have three choices: (Ok, lies, he said I have two choices but I totally added in this third choice.  I’ll let you choose which one it was):  I can either walk my bike up the hill at 3 miles an hour and arrive shortly before dark OR I can bike and arrive sooner, OR I can turn around and fly the fuck down those hills back to the safety of my sweet, sweet, flat Long Island.  Eventually I sat up, (mostly because so many passing bikers were asking if I was okay), decided the mountain could suck it, and got on my bike.  I made it 10 yards before I had to stop again but I told myself I would recover and then go another 10 yards.  I did this ALL THE WAY TO TOP!!!  I got to a little coffee shop in the town of Haverstraw, NY and sat for an hour because I knew I only had 7 miles left to go.  A few more miles down the road and I passed the sign announcing I had arrived at Tompkins Cove!! The town I had been ”google map directions…ing…” to all week!  I stopped at a gas station to use the restroom and an old, crickety old man, who works there, approaches me.  He asked me where I’m from, when I started, where I’m headed…etc.  When I told him my goal is Bear Mountain he starts in on how there’s no camping there and the campground is closed.  He’s very intense about it and staring at me like I’m planning to blow up the mountain secretly.  Eventually I went on my way but he definitely had gotten into my head.  As I approach a sign announcing the bridge to Bear Mountain I’m feeling really nervous and paranoid about the camping.  I pass a little tiny church and house and decide to throw caution to the wind.  I dismount and approach the house, which is when I met Charlie, the golden retriever.  He’s barking and growling and I can’t really tell how long of a chain he’s on but I give him plenty of distance while I hoot ”helllloooooo?”  as friendlily (I know it’s not a word) and unthreateningly as possible.  When a women finally opens the door I explain to her my situation and ask if I can camp on the church property.  Not only did she tell me that it was fine, she also said she would leave the door to the bathroom open for me to use (which was great because that issue hadn’t even crossed my mind).

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It was about 3pm at that point so I decided to set up my tent and go from there.  I got my tent all set up, bed made, bags in my tent, and crawled in to freshen up and change my clothes.  After this I head back to Charlie, who by the way, once I knew his name was my new best friend.

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After this I went back to my tent to read a little and ended up falling asleep.  Woke up a few hours later, ate my dinner of a Clif bar and some corn (useless healthwise but tasty nevertheless).  I went outside to plug in my phone and noticed that moon was HUGE and full!!  It was the perfect end of the day!  I went to sleep and slept cozy cozy coooozzzyy until my alarm went off the next morning. …And then another 2 hours.

It took me an hour to break camp, and I took off at 9:30 am resigning myself to the fact that there was a pretty probably chance that the end of my ride was going to be in the dark.  I zoomed past the old man at the gas station, who didn’t see me, thank god.  Before I knew it I was at the coffee shop and it was only 10:30 am.  I stopped for a very quick hot coffee, which I enjoyed in the rain.  Oh, I didn’t mention that it was POURING RAIN?  Yes, well it was.

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I quickly headed off into the rain, which wasn’t really bothering me as I had come prepared for cold, wet weather anyway.  What REALLY killed me that day was that I was sore from the previous day and still had to do the same mountains.  I thought I would never make it up.  Several times I found myself begging my Grandma for help getting up ”this fucking mountain”, telling myself ”If I get to the top I get to roll to the bottom” “You will not die on this mountain” and my favorite “This is crazy, this is so crazy”.

One in particular was never ever ever ever ever ever ever EVER ending.  When I finally made it to the top and started to fly down, I literally was crying with relief and not just the wind blowing.  It was such a sense of joy and relief that it made the torturous journey up more than worth the pain.  Once again, I passed through the town of Piermont and continued up another mountain.  This was a great part, although it was also quite painful.  Every time I was stopped and another biker would pass me from behind the would have encouraging words for me.  “You’re almost there!”  “Doing great!”  “YOU CAN DO IT YOU CAN DOOOO IT!!”  My favorite was one guy who was with a group of guys who were clearly not stopping for him, so as I’m standing there panting for air, he’s biking slowly by, panting for air too, and goes ”Yeah.  I don’t like it either!”  I didn’t even have air to say anything, just laughed/moaned in reply.  The best sign I’d seen all day was the George Washington Bridge: 15 miles sign.  I eventually got to that point where I’d initially gone the wrong/right way on the three way stop and this time I followed the bikers (like a pro whut whuuuut).  As I headed down that last 7 mile road towards the bridge the rain kicked up and eventually I had to put my glasses in my pocket.  I could barely see, and my brakes were so screechy it sounded like my dad’s car. And then I was there!  George Washington Bridge!!! Yaaaay!

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It was super misty AND only 3pm!  I had made the ride in less than 6 hours!

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Once I got across the bridge the next best thing I had seen:  the elevator down to the A train was WORKING AGAIN!!  In I went, quickly got the subway back to Penn Station just in time to get a 4pm train home and the next thing I knew I was back in Massapequa. While adjusting my bike on the train I managed to strain my wrist, which initially I didn’t think was going to be an issue but today I am in a lot of pain.  Now, children, who remembers the very first issue of the weekend?  If any of you said that the train station doesn’t have an elevator you win a high five from me if you ever meet me. I rolled to the edge of the stairs and looked down them.  I tried to pick up my bike and my wrist screamed in protest.  I unloaded EVERYTHING off my bike and took it down the stairs, returning for my bike, which was then not hard to carry down.  Reloaded up and bike home where I immediately put away my bike and hopped into a warm bathtub.

I had done it.  I hadn’t given up.  I made it up my first mountain(s) and didn’t die.  This is good thing.