After sleeping outside a gas station, I’m packing up my tent when a car best described as a ladybug on wheels comes right for me. It’s a Fiat 500 with two large guys inside. Are they a couple? So much man for so little car.
They are two dads, but are fathers to different families. Both like to cycle and want a closer look at this strange blue bike. They can’t believe I just slept out here. One of their sons got a job in LA flying drones for video production companies. He rushed to California by plane, and they’re driving his car to him.
“Can’t survive without a car in LA!” the driver exclaims.
We’ll see about that, I think to myself. I ask them about the car’s Ohio tags.
“We’re from a small town near the Ohio River,” the driver says.
My ears perk up. I biked along there.
“You’ve probably never heard of it,” he says.
“Try me,” I say, smiling with confidence.
Do I know Belmont. I spent the night camping there. My mind rewinds to happier times. All I want is a ride, but my bike is almost as big as their Fiat. They motor off and I pedal on.
The wind is picking up. Did it ever die down? It is insidious and unrelenting. It sneaks into my shoes and rattles around my ears. It pounds against my chest. I would gladly trade wind for hills, even those I faced getting to Belmont. You can’t walk up the wind. You can’t go around it. No matter how hard you pedal, its stamina outlasts yours.
I come upon a pebble-sized place called Cuervo, which sounds like a good time (tequi-la!), but is really just a roadside junkyard. Out here I’m not sure what’s worse: seeing or not seeing signs of civilization.
On a back road to Santa Rosa I reach a point with no trace of mankind in any direction, other than the road and fence alongside it. I am in the throes of nature on a bike that belongs in the most densely populated urban center in America. What the hell am I doing? I’ve come a long way, but how much further can I go?
Santa Rosa is a rusty Route 66 town with fewer than 3,000 people. With wide streets and failed businesses, Santa Rosa is a smaller, more busted version of Tucumcari, which at least had nice murals and the Blue Swallow Motel. I’m in no mood to play tourist here. I don’t even visit the Blue Hole.
This part of New Mexico is a black hole and I can’t escape on a bicycle. Two straight days of morale-busting winds have me on the ropes. Nature’s knockout blow is coming tomorrow with 30 mph sustained winds from the west. Where am I going? West. Fifty-five miles west on Interstate 40 with nowhere to stop or sleep along the way.
Even worse, 55 miles only gets me to Clines Corners, a glorified gas station in the desert. There’s nowhere to stay the night. Indoor amenities require another full day of riding into the mountains to reach Santa Fe.
That’s under ideal weather conditions, not what the National Weather Service is warning about.
Santa Rosa to Santa Fe requires biking against hazardous headwinds for two full days, including in the dark. The first day is all along the interstate. Hardcore cyclists might rise to the challenge, but I’m not a cyclist, remember? I’m a bicycle commuter wearing old gym clothes on a 45-pound bike towing a trailer.
I’ve had enough of this bike. In this wind. On roads that recede into infinity. For the first time in my life, I’m going to try my hand at hitchhiking.