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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Hello Austin!

HI!!! I made it to Austin alive!! (I don’t know why I wouldn’t?) Allow me to tell you about my day!
I started my day off with Kerry dropping me off at the LaGuardia Airport for my flight. We had our horribly heartbreaking goodbye and I was off. There was literally no line for the security, which I was worried about because I was actually supposed to fly yesterday and my flight was cancelled for today because of the weather we’re having. But so yes there was no line and I was two hours early and settled in for the wait. The first flight was a few minutes behind and I made it to my second flight just in time to board. It was a snowy snowy flight down from Chicago to Austin. see look:

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Snowy plains!!

Upon arriving at the airport I went down to the baggage area to collect my suitcases. You remember…the one large one that rolls, the one large one that is enormous and doesn’t roll and the carry-on that I ended up checking because the plane was full. As the carry-on rolling suitcase comes around the bend I’m staring at it strangely because the handles look like they’ve come off. No wait… that’s not even the top…that’s the BOTTOM. THREE of the four wheels have snapped off the bottom of the suitcase and are long gone. LOOOONG gone. So as I’m stunned and pondering just how the fuck I’m going to be able to roll this suitcase plus the other two down the streets of Austin, TX the large rolling bag comes around. IT ALSO IS MISSING IT’S WHEELS. ALL it’s wheels. ALL IT’S WHEELS! Can I scream that loud enough? Yeah, no I can’t. So my setup was this and I wish I’d had the presence of mind to take a photo but I was too busy wondering what to do. Picture a regular sized carry on rolling suitcase. On top of that picture a large rectangular old fashioned suitcase the kind that doesn’t roll that you have to carry yourself. That was the only way I could fathom traveling carrying all the bags. I thought you myself, I’ll just drag these bags, sure why not? …I made it as far as the seats that people sit on who are waiting for their loved ones to arrive on planes. Not only was I dying for air, in pain from gripping my heavy bags but I am dragging dead weight and screeching with every step I take. OBviously the bus idea is not going to work out. I decide to take a cab, all I have to do now is get myself out to where cabs are picking people up. Off I go with all my suitcases dragging and screeching and people watching me. The first street to cross wasn’t SO bad (and by that I mean I didn’t drop anything). The second street I cross to where all the cabs with lights were parked only to be told they can’t pick me up there I have to cross back over and walk to the official ”taxi pick -up” sign. So I turn around and begin crossing again and I could FEEL the bags slipping and the next thing I know the large suitcase has fallen off the carry one and the large rolling one has just fallen and can’t get up. Finally a cabbie gets out to help me out and thank crap for that because I was dying already, can you imagine me trying to bus it and then hoof to Courtney’s house? I cannot. Into the cab I go and then I’m at the hosts house! On my way there I saw CACTUS AFTER CACTUS! It was very cool to see all these things that I know are there but I’ve never actually seen. For example in the airport there was a ton of music stages and giant guitars etc… anyways…
She wasn’t home, which I was prepared for but I knew her roommates were although I wasn’t exactly sure of the layout of her home. I had to walk around the side of the house (several trips as I progressed with my suitcases) . Courtney told me that she had two dogs and that they were friendly but would probably bark a little at me and she was right. They were snarling through the door. I walked in the side door to her bedroom and they were beyond another door which I believed was the living room where she’d said to make myself at home. I cracked the door open and they went crazy soooo I shut it again. I wasn’t about to test the friendliness of these puppies who clearly thought I was an intruder. Her roommates eventually came out and opened the door and introduced me to the dogs who after seeing I was not a threat were very friendly.
Next I unpacked the Suitcases From Hell, organized my bags and shit and plugged in the things that need to charge. I am now currently sitting on her couch typing this out to you guys here. All in all I am very lucky that I was financially ABLE to take a cab so I cannot even complain one bit. Plus I kind of am glad it took 15 minutes to get here and 45 by bus. I’m pretty tired and have a big day ahead of me so wish me luck on picking up my bike tomorrow!! ❤ ❤
Item to buy: hand lotion. I've totally forgotten that and my hands are super chapped. And Advil Migraine. And peanut butter and bread. =)
Remind me if I forget. I'm just waiting for Courtney to get home from work and we can chat! I can't wait to learn all about her stories of bike touring on HER own!

Unrelated to Anything Else I dedicate this post to my NY Friends

The last few days I’ve been trying to organize my lists of the last few things I need to buy for this trip and have been finding myself feeling kind of blue.  I couldn’t really put my finger on it, aside from attributing it to hating the holiday season (which I really do) without my family.  Then Carole King explained it for me and made me cry (by the way, readers who don’t know me: I cry at a lot of strange things).

When I first moved to New York I worked for this family for an entire year without making any real girlfriends.  The first real friend I made was Rachel.  [ http://thepawreport.wordpress.com/ ]  We met at an animal rights protest for the cats and dogs living and dying in New York City’s Animal Care and Control.  It wasn’t until a few months later that we actually began hanging out but it was destined to be because we were destined to sing karaoke.  The first time we hung out we went shopping at American Apparel and afterwards went to a bar where my drink was horrible and we convinced our server to put Hawaiian Punch in it just to make it a little better (it wasn’t better haha).  After that for about 6 months we karaoke’d together every other weekend and I would stay with her in Brooklyn.  She has a cat named Raskol who is, in her words, a crazy bastard…and he really is.  I’ll never forget waking up in the middle of the night the night before I auditioned for The Voice to him screaming and racing around her apartment lol.  Rachel wasn’t amused but we laugh about it every time now.  When my grandmother died it was Rachel who met fresh from the airport and held me in the middle of the busy sidewalk while I cried.  She’s a very busy bee but whenever I least expect it she’ll surprise me with a sweet little gift or Facebook post of encouragement.

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I was Rachel’s date to a family wedding in Rhode Island this summer

The second friend I made in New York was Kerry.  I was signing up to volunteer at the local animal shelter and Kerry was the person handing out applications.  For some reason that I still don’t know, I asked Kerry if she’d like to have dinner some night and talk about the shelter system in NY.  (SUPER random right?)  Well, we exchanged numbers and made arrangements for dinner.  Kerry will never let me forget that dinner, allow me to explain.  At the time I was friends with a woman who was a little crazy and too intense when it came to animal rescue (I hadn’t realized it yet though) and that night at dinner she ended up asking me to go on a wild cat chase for a missing cat.  I dragged poor Kerry along, who had no idea what she was getting into but the next thing she knew we were knocking on a strangers door in the rain at like 9:30 at night.  I honestly cannot understand why she ever spoke to me again! LOL!  Once I had established that I was not, in fact, insane (well..) we became glorious friends!  She would come over and we would talk about our love interests over a cup of coffee and lots of squealing ridiculously.  Kerry is who pushed me into actually doing this trip.  She is the one who googled camping on public land etc etc.  She listened to me ramble, rant and rave about all the different plans I wish I could have and why they would or would not work and gave me realistic ideas in return.  Kerry is my one friend actually ON Long Island (since everyone else lives in the city) that I could count on in an emergency not even beginning to mention randomly texting for a 5 minute coffee date!  She comes over every Wednesday for coffee and we catch up on the week and that’s that!  Kerry is the best!

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At Kerry’s surprise birthday party this summer

Last year at Thanksgiving Rachel introduced me to her friend Caitlin, who quickly became my friend also!  (Although if you ask her she’ll say SHE infiltrated our friendship).  Caitlin lives with her mother and her fiance with their 4 dogs, 2 (or 3?) cats and other tiny family members.  Caitlin and Richard became another little safe haven for me when I’d get frustrated in my house and needed to escape.  I could always count on them to let me over for a drink and some ranting angrily (plus a lot of loving on from her doggies).  Catlin does work similar to mine so she always understands a lot of the anxieties and frustrations that I go through.  She also has a sassy mouth on her that won’t stop for anything, and I love it.  Sometimes you encounter people who are quiet just to let the peace continue but Caitlin will speak her part come hell or high water even if it’s about you!  Who doesn’t need that in their lives?  I love that I can talk about shit and Caitlin with definitely tell me straight up how she feels about whatever I saying.  She’s also hysterically inappropriate at times like when I give her my Facebook password for emergencies and she hijacks it with status about all kinds of stuff!  What a jerk. ❤

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New Years Eve with Caitlin ❤

I met Alicia, Kathy and Nicole at a concert for an artist that we all love.  For about 6 months we went out every weekend dancing, having fun and getting into trouble.  Eventually we realized our poor wallets couldn’t handle that but all the things we got into during that time allowed us to become very fast friends who can talk about ANYthing and anyone.  Lots of fantastic memories, sleeping on Alicia’s pullout bed and then getting lost trying to find our way back to the subway the next day; dancing and discussing makeup, clothes, significant others in our lives, shoes and upcoming concerts.  I think the best night of the three of us was when we made the not smart decision to go out to a concert on a Tuesday night.  We had hoped the artist would go out with us afterwards (because she had done that the last time she was in New York).  We ended up at a karaoke bar in Brooklyn and suddenly it was 3:30 am, Kathy was being fed a bagel by Alicia like a bird, Nicole was long gone back to PA (where she lived) and I was panicking on trying to get a cab to the train because I had to work at 6:30 am and the last train was at 4.

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Kathy, Alicia, Nicole and her fiance SJ, and I

Last, but not least, is my friend Taina.  I met Taina in July this year.  We ran into each other at a pow wow in Queens and never interacted and then ended up being in a giftshop in a museum at the same time two weeks later.  We went out for coffee and immediately there was a click.  Right away she understood what I meant when I said I love to sigh in the wind, to stand in the rain with my arms up.  We like to say that destiny brought us together at a time when we needed a friend that understood our souls.  We don’t see each other often but whenever we do and whenever we talk we have these deep, honest discussions about EVERYTHING and sometimes there is a language barrier due to her speaking more Spanish than English and me the other way around but we always get our point made and understand.  We have had many adventures and end up laughing over the silliest things later on.  There is always a race to watch the sunset when she comes to Long Island to visit me and hopefully one day on my trip we will watch one.  ❤

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Watching the sunset at the beach

Needless to say, the first time I left New York I didn’t really mind it because I wasn’t leaving anyONE behind.  This time the thought of leaving my girlfriends behind is really rather excruciating.  Since my phone will be off I won’t be able to just text, facebook message or call any of them if I suddenly have a problem with something and just need to talk, want to see their posts on animals on facebook or what hair drama Kathy is having.  For the first time in my life every single girlfriend I have here is someone I can literally say ANYthing to and know that they won’t judge me.  They accept me for who I am, and respect me enough to be honest with me.  I’ve never known friends quite like this that will have an entire thread about my ridiculous antics on Facebook the way these ladies will and it genuinely makes me smile knowing that I love them as much as they love me.  I’m super glad I wrote this blog out because it actually lifted my spirits a lot thinking of all the joy my friends bring to my life.  #FreeFranny

Oooh Packages!….and other thoughts.

So the last two weeks have been one package of gear after another after another arriving, ending with my business cards being delivered this afternoon.  I can’t decide what I’m more excited about!

1.  DandyCase Waterproof Phone Bag

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So I have a horrible habit of taking my phone in the bathroom when I’m showering so I can play music to sing along to.  I learned the hard way that this messed up your phone pretty fast.  I decided that since I have no idea when I’ll be able to buy a new phone I’d better be REALLY careful with this one so I bought this waterproof bag.  I’m kind of diggin’ it because I watched a few video reviews and it’s totally submersible!  The only downside is that I there’s no way to have my headphones plugged into it so… I might have to buy a second one for my ipod.  We shall see. Until then bring on the rain!

2.  Schampa WarmSkin Balaclava

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So, something that I really wished I had had on my trip to Bear Mountain was one of these.  I saw a lot of other bikers wearing them and, damn, on my way DOWN the hills my poor face was FREEEEZING.  I’ve tested it out once and was actually SO cozy I had to pull it down to my chin!  So hopefully in really chilly winter weather I’ll be ready!!

3.  GoalZero 12301 Nomad 7M Solar Panel

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I decided that I wasn’t going to buy the solar charger I had previously talked about as I was told that it didn’t really charge well at all.  I also started reading different reviews and this brand GoalZero was said to be ultra durable and weatherproof.  You can connect it up to other compatible solar panels which is great!  It has a USB port along with two other forms of charging.  I cannot WAIT to test this out on my next ride!!

4.  Smith Optics SME OTG Goggles

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Along with wishing I’d had a balaclava my eyes were watering like a waterfall on the downsides of hills, and once the rain started, as I mentioned: it was pouring rain and I had to put my glasses in my pocket.  I was really picky about these without wanting to spend a zillion bucks in case they didn’t work.  What I mean by that is that I needed to find a pair of goggles that fit comfortably over my glasses.  Right now the glasses that I wear are small but my other pair that are apparently missing and presumed lost are the ones I want to bring on my trip.

*****

So the next 2 gifts were incredible.  I had them on my wishlist for items I need to still buy.  I checked the mailbox Tuesday morning to see a box in my mailbox and inside it were a set of 20 Bungee cords of different sizes and an AMAZING bike multitool.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I opened the box and when I saw the gift note saying they were from my friends sister wishing me a wonderful trip I started crying.  The thing is, so I have all these plans and wishes for this trip.  It is one thing for your friends to like you Facebook page and follow your blog and say that they’re behind you but when you physically get to hold in your hands proof that people believe in you and wish you well in your dream?…Let me tell you, friends, it’s kind of an overwhelming feeling.  I will never need another bungee cord as long as I live….okay maybe I will but not for a long, long time!

The bike multi tool is AWESOME.  It’s the Topeak Alien II 26 Multi-Tool and seriously is the most intense tool I’ve ever seen lol.  Allan wrenches, box wrenches, Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, mini pedal wrench, spoke wrenches, a knife, a bottle opener, and several others which I like literally haven’t a clue how to use yet.  Good thing it comes with instructions for every tool on it.  I am so incredible grateful for the people who are starting to come forward saying they’d like to donate to my trip and help support me.  ❤ ❤

MY BUSINESS CARDS HAVE ARRIVED.  There isn’t really too much to go on about with these except that I’m super pumped because they are BEAUTIFUL and everything that I dreamed they would be =)  See for yourself!

See? Pretty!

Moving on.  Remember how in my last post I mentioned that my wrist was bothering me?  Well it still hurts.  A lot.  When I do anything.  Initially I’d purchased KT Tape and that seemed to help but then …it didn’t anymore, and it seems to be getting worse.  So I traipsed back to CVS and got an actual brace, which is glorious.  I then got on my bike a few days later and realized that, no, not even the brace makes it better.  I sound really whiny to everyone I talk to but IT HUUURRTTSSS when I bike!  So this puts a severe cramp in my training plans!  Two weekends have gone by (one of which wasn’t wasted as I had a friend visiting me) but this last weekend and this weekend could have been long trips and now can’t be. How am I supposed to be ready for mountains when I can’t practice going UP them?  It has me genuinely concerned.

Whew! Let’s Catch Up!!

Good Lord!  I’ve been MIA!  I have a lot to tell you and my updates.  I don’t even know where to start…

…Okay, I guess I’ll start with my bike.  I got my new bike!  Finally paid it all off!!  Wanna hear all about it?   Of course you do.  😉

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This is my new bike!  It’s a Diamondback Vital 2 or as I call her, Evelyn.  She’s a hybrid bike so she’s built for comfort AND the road but her tires are treaded and wide enough to also function well if I choose to go off path for awhile (duh).  

Along with buying Evelyn, I replaced the pedals with Shimano PD-M424 SPD Pedals.  For those of you who were like me a month ago:  They’re pedals that on one side are like a regular pedal and on the other side have clips for your clipless shoes.  (Confused yet?)  Okay so, clipless shoes are biking shoes with a little cleat the bottom that looks like this:

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(Thanks drivemybike.wordpress.com for the pic!) 

The way that they work is that little cleat in the bottom of the shoe clips to the cleat on your pedal!  (So why is it called clipless?) To get clipped IN you have to push down and your shoes snap to your pedal (meaning that you can’t just lift your foot off your pedal, you are stuck to your pedal) and to release you have to push down and then twist your foot out and you pop your shoe out. ) You don’t HAVE to use them with your shoes obviously BUT it makes biking a lot easier.  This of course is all hearsay as I haven’t seen the proof yet.  The bottom of MY shoes look like the center shoe.  

I was told I was going to fall a few times before I mastered using the clipless pedals and boy did I ever.  So imagine that you’re on your bike and your feet are like GLUED to your pedals.  What happens if you start to tip in a certain direction?  Yes, you are correct, you fall hard because there is LITERALLY nothing you can do to save yourself.  So this girl leaning up against the garage door managed to have one shoe unclipped and fall in the direction of the shoe that WAS clipped in.  Straight to the ground.  Hello scraped knee and elbow.  I’m just glad I didn’t bonk my head.  I had a concert to go to that night so I decided to not break a bone or two beforehand.  

Moving on… I am starting to face the horrible idea that I may have to push back my start date.  I was originally wanting to leave in January but I’m thinking that it’s not going to happen that early financially.  I’d rather work at my horrible job longer and have a little more food money saved up than starve sooner… sort of.  Some of the fears that I’ve managed to nail down so far go as follows:

  • Camping on public property and having to wonder who might approach my tent.  I know that this is going to just have to be something I get used to but I know that it’s a logical fear.  According to all the biker tour-ists I’ve spoken to this is a fear that gets pumped up a lot but in reality isn’t much of an issue.  I know how to prepare for it I just need to be ready.
  • Not having enough food and having to resort to eating meat.  This is a personal issue as a vegetarian that scares the daylight out of me.  I know that in terms of survival this is something I’m going to have to just be open to if it like literally comes down to me either dying or not but …still….

In the meantime of me worrying which isn’t going to help anything as much as preparation will, tomorrow is a day off (I refuse to say I’m celebrating Columbus Day which is utter bullshit)  and I’m determined to master these damn biking shoes so I can go on a nice long bike ride.  Until next time!  (Next time we’ll talk about bike saddles, helmets and lights)

 

Ok, here’s an idea…

Ok, here's an idea...

Here we gooooo!!! Okay! I’ve mapped (ha) the beginning of the trip. I’m starting in Richmond, VA and taking the Interstate south to Jacksonville, the west to Baton Rouge (hopefully in time for a friend’s wedding) and then continuing on to Albuquerque and that’s where the REAL fun starts! It should take me a little less than 2 months if I’m biking 5 hours a day, less if I go more and push it but I don’t plan to do that as I don’t want to burn out early. According to a friend living in Richmond, their winters aren’t too terrible, definitely a little snow and the roads get icy at night but I’m hoping it’s not too bad during the day.

Whoohoo!

Just what I love!! Shoes!

Just what I love!!  Shoes!

Well ladies and gentleman, I finally decided on a pair of shoes and ordered them tonight….with no small amount of apprehension. I have NEVER purchased shoes that cost more than $60 in. my. LIFE. So this was rather terrifying.

Their advertising boasts:

“Treat your feet to the ultra-versatile, super cute X-Alp Impact shoe from Pearl Izumi. The specially engineered mesh/synthetic upper means excellent breathability and comfort, while the carbon rubber lugged outsole means you won’t pay a price for walking too. With a combination closure system, the fit is always just right, and low cut uppers keep your pedaling fast and efficient. Lace up design with the added top hook and loop strap Low cut construction for a light, fast fit and feel Quick drying, highly breathable mesh/synthetic upper delivers comfort and breathability EVA foam run shoe midsole for off the bike cushioning and comfort Carbon rubber lugged outsole for superior traction and durability Combination closure system with premium buckle and forefoot Hook and Loop straps Flexible forefoot and a running shoe beveled heel SPD Compatible”

Basically, these shoes are pretty lightweight but durable, comfortable and good at whicking away sweat so your feet aren’t dying. They’re also super cute which wasn’t really a factor but just ended up working out that way. What I really love is the fact that when the clips aren’t on they look like regular sneakers so I can wear them off my bike too. They have wonderful traction because they’re mountain biking shoes and the reviews seem to be greatly in favor of them (I would know as I have spent hours upon hours upon hooouuurs going through review after review for multiple different pairs of shoes).

So here goes nothing!