Not having that fire last night kinda made things rough. I woke up with my rainfly covered in frost. It was so cold last night that the vapor which escaped my breath when I slept formed a condensation and then froze. I woke up so dehydrated that all I wanted was water. My water bottles were frozen solid. I guess this is my consequence for sleeping out here. It took about an hour into the day’s ride before I was able to drink anything.
About that time I reached White Sands National Park. I hung out in there for a bit to defrost and check out the gypsum dunes. I was on the fence about entering the park, but after watching the 15 minute introductory film, I had decided. I pretty much get it, I don’t really need to go inside. It was the quintessential Larry David moment. “Eh, I get it”. I just saw it in the video; I don’t need to see it up close. I think that was a decision I’m going to look back and not regret at all.
As I was biking down the road I heard a deafening BOOM emit from the skies. I looked up and saw some fighter jets appear out of nowhere, flying right above my head. The town I was headed towards, Alamogordo, has an Air Force Base. I found that out in the most startling way possible.
Ok so here’s where things get bizarre. I had asked a Warmshowers host in Alamogordo to see if he could put me up for the night a few days ago. He declined because his house was under construction. No problem. I headed to the library to figure out an alternative. After setting up in a cozy little nook, a man approached me and asked me if my name was Tom. The closer I get to Roswell, the weirder things become. It turns out this guy was the Warmshowers host I had contacted in town. He apologized that he couldn’t host me and worked to try and find me a place. Though unsuccessful, it was appreciated. However, he did give me a down comforter to help me combat the cold weather. It was extremely thoughtful but I wouldn’t be able to carry it because of the size. It’s about 4pm and another day has passed where I have no idea where I’ll be sleeping that night.
If there’s one thing you can count on a public library having, its books, outlets, and homeless people. I decided to go outside and offer the comforter to a homeless woman. At that moment a man emerged from his car and asked me where I was headed. I told him New Jersey and he asked me where I was headed tonight. I told him I didn’t know, and he basically said “you’re going to stay with me tonight”. Sounded good to me. We introduced each other. His name is Bob and he’s a special education teacher who is currently hosting an exchange student from Pakistan named Zane. He had to run a few errands so we planned to meet at the La Luz Post office in a half hour. From there, Bob put my bike on a rack and drove me to his house. It was up in the hills, totally secluded and absolutely gorgeous. His house is a straw bale home, which he built himself. A straw bale home is something I’m unfamiliar with, but basically what it is is a home that uses straw as insulation. Apparently it’s not uncommon for homes to be built in that style in this region, and they’re actually more fire resistant than most other styles. There’s about three feet of insulation, so I definitely won’t have to worry about frozen toes tonight.
Bob knows bikes too. He’s toured all over the country and showed me his collection. We were even able to fix a couple issues I’ve been having on my bike (the set screws on my brakes were off center and my front fender was wacky). Bob helped me with these issues and we then spent the better part of the evening discussing bicycles, the south, and touring over a couple of beers. Bob has lived all over the country but adores the south the most. He dropped some serious knowledge on me about Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana. It was actually great hearing him talk about New Orleans because whenever he did, his dialect would dip and he’d develop a southern drawl. I used to be one of those Yankees who frowned upon the south and consider them yokels, but I’m now salivating at the prospect of riding through the Deep South. Bob did warn me about Texas and how the rebel flag holds sway there.
Bob has offered to drive me to Ruidoso tomorrow to save me the trouble of cycling up the mountains. Normally I decline an offer like this, but he altered my perception a bit. I’m paraphrasing here, but basically he put it like this: I’m going to ride up the mountain and want nothing to do with the town of Ruidoso because all I’ll want to do is bike down to Roswell. He insisted that I spend some time in this town, and he’s totally right that I would have just passed through it had I biked up the mountain. I like Bob a lot. And I trust him. So I’m going to accept this ride and cut out about 50 miles of cycling in order to reach Ruidoso sooner in the day and fully appreciate it. I hope you guys don’t think any less of me for making this decision.
I have to take a moment and reflect on this day. One minute I’m dirty, demoralized and dreading the idea of spending another night in below freezing conditions. The next, I’m literally sitting next to a guy I talked to online but never have met. He gives me a comforter, which I give to a homeless woman, and as that’s occurring, a man drives up with an exchange student from Pakistan offering me a place to sleep in his home. I don’t understand how this universe works sometimes. Either it’s a strategically preplanned arrangement of serendipitous encounters, or complete and utter chaotic cosmos riddled with random occurrences that synchronize every once in a while. I flirt with both ideologies, but I can always rely on the one constant infusing both which is the unadulterated benevolence which had flooded this trip of mine. All I know is that if the order of events that happened to me today was off by a few seconds, I could very well be sleeping in the woods, alone, miserable somewhere. Instead I’m in a comfortable bed in a house crafted of straw bale, swapping stories with an exchange student from Pakistan.
This life. It’s real, yo:
Total Ascent: 956 ft.