I found a safe haven last night in the form of an unlocked barn. I spent some time prior cruising around Carlsbad trying to figure out a spot to grab a few hours rest. There it was. Actually there they were a half dozen barns just rip for the sleeping. I had my pick of the litter and I chose one with windows so I could feel like I was sleeping in a real people house. It wasn’t the Ritz, but it did the job.
From Carlsbad I had a 20 mile ride to the caverns. The only exciting thing that happened during the stint was a semi truck’s tire exploding about 100 yards ahead of me. Had it happened next to me, I would have certainly veered off the road and into some merciless cacti. IT WAS A BLAST!
I also finally got around to listening to Kerouac’s On The Road. I had made previous attempts earlier in the trip, but this stretch of road felt like the right time. Needless to say, the story resonates deeply with me. I wish I could write like Kerouac. I just hope I don’t meet the same demise.
I finally reached the caverns after a multitude of switchbacks. I rushed into the cave without realizing that I still had my cycling cleats on. They have a piece of metal on the bottom side to clip into the pedal. Well because the caverns are so quiet, the sound of my clattering shoes was seriously compromising the integrity of the experience. So I went barefoot. In true hobbit fashion, I marched down the path, smelly shoes in hand, much to the disgust of all the other patrons.
The sights in the cavern were unreal. I felt like I was the protagonist of a Jules Verne novel, exploring uncharted territory on an expedition to search for a rare artifact, like a Cal Ripken Jr. rookie card, or the cast of Jersey Shore’s self-respect. The pictures I took did not do justice to what’s down there. Regardless of the weather/temperature outside, the caverns remain a constant 57⁰ F. I journeyed from light to dark, descending into a sunless world where the weather is changeless, and time seems frozen. But first I passed through the middle ground…the twilight zone. No seriously, that’s actually what it’s called.
The constant dripping of water from the stalactites was causing me to go stir crazy so I decided to listen to some music. Pink Floyd seemed most fitting given the conditions. I navigated through a labyrinth of rock, gypsum, and old people to reach ‘The Big Room’. It’s the largest natural limestone chamber in the Western Hemisphere and takes up over 600,000 square feet. The chamber was riddled with stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and various other rock formations. I could have easily spent days there ogling at these marvelous works of nature, but I had to make a few stalactites of my own, so I rushed through the final bits of the cavern. I did catch a glimpse of one formation that totally looked like a boob. There were dozens of names for different formations scattered about the caverns, but the Park neglected to recognize the famed stalac-tit.
To call the caverns inspirational would be an understatement. It reminded me why I embarked on this trip in the first place.
Outside the park I sat by an outlet, waiting for my phone to charge. A girl came and sat on the bench near me to do the same. We immediately began conversing. I cannot recall her name. She told it to me twice. I was too preoccupied getting lost in her eyes to remember. She had a pierced nose and wore a beat sweater. She was an artist. I was mesmerized. Here’s where things get real. She’s from Philadelphia and lived less than 10 blocks from me. I mentioned Danger! Danger! and she knew what I was talking about. I felt reconnected to the city. She’s headed to Austin, TX the same time I am. I watched her lips slowly part as she coyly snuck an American Spirit between them. She is a mirage. “I’ll see you in Austin.” were the last words I spoke to her. The New Mexico sun danced off her hair as she walked away.
I left the caverns with the next stop being Pecos. I was late into the afternoon when I left and darkness found me quickly. Literally the second the sun hides behind the mountains, the desert drops I least 30⁰. The desolation of my route enabled me to turn off my lights and ride in the pitch black. The only lights I could see were from the stars. It’s an astonishing experience.
Eventually I reached a small cluster of homes and a church. This wasn’t a town, but some sort of isolated community. I looked for a place to set up my tent. As I was scoping out the church, a woman called out to me from her car. She told me to bring my self and my bicycle into the church and sleep there. It’s heated and she assured me I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way. That was all I needed to hear.
As I entered the church I was rushed with the feeling of discomfort. It had been years since I’ve been inside a church. That distinct church smell invaded my nostrils. You know the smell. I was trying to jog my memory as to when the last time I’d entered one was. Definitely a funeral. I’ve never really had much invested in the Christian faith, so running my fingers over a pew and staring up at Jesus on the cross extracted a sense of uneasiness from me. I don’t want to write anymore about my faith in this post. I’ll save that for another one. That’s too complicated to tackle right now. For now I am just thankful I have a warm place to sleep.
Yesterday I was overcome with the strong urge to hop on a bus straight home. Today, I can’t fathom ever ending this trip. I’ll be sleeping in New Mexico for the last time tonight. This state took a lot out of me, but it gave me more than I could ever ask for. This is my life. On the Road.
Total Ascent: 1564 ft.