Day 59 - Sierra Blanca to El Paso
Finally I was greeted with the sight of a never ending decent, at least to my eyes, that is what it seemed to be. Leaving the RV park where I had camped, the first few miles out of Sierra Blanca were a slow and steady uphill. I knew from my maps that everything dropped down to El Paso, so I patiently awaited the cresting of the ridge. Finally, there before my eyes, was the long drop along I10 down into the valley that was sure to be nice and flat.
Those days are really a treat because you get so many miles in without any effort. Unfortunately their is often a price to be paid, some sort of wicked karma played upon you by the Gods. When I reached the valley floor, the route deviates from the highway into 18 miles of some of the most inhospitable terrain I have seen. Dry, dry, and drier, the dust permeates your lips, lungs and body. This stretch of land works its way closer to the Rio Grande and the border between the US and Mexico. Border Patrol agents and the lone goat farmer were all I would see on this desolate stretch of road. As I wound my way further along, it became apparent that the locals knew how to farm this land, something that for the life of me I could not figure out how. The dirt, grey and rocky stretched for miles, but off in the distance you could see the swirling dust cloud thrown up from the big tractors plowing the land.
Soon it became apparent what the plan was, they had figured out how to create canals, dams, and resevoirs, all from the Rio Grande. With an intricate system of flood gates they could control what fields got irrigated and when. I must assume that their is some overarching authority that places a method on this madness, but who knows. Slowly the miles rolled by and I would find huge patches of land that were bright green, a stark contrast to that which surrounded them.
I was now approaching the 60 mile mark for the day, and not a camp spot in sight. My attempts to communicate with locals was lost on them, my lousy Spanish and their lousy English were no match for one another. Dusk settled in and still I pounded the pedals, darkness soon to set in. I went to switch on my blinky lights, only to find out my batteries were dead. Then, my headlight, dead as well. My emergency strobe strapped to the back of BOB, well, not quite dead but close enough.
I used my phone as a light to pull out my trusty headlamp, thank goodness for Petzl, those things just work and work. As darkness set in I was now pedaling in complete black on winding country roads, confident as always that a spot would be found, not allowing doubt to creep into my mind. I had never been failed and I knew tonight would not be the first time. Still, a spot sure would be nice, I had not eaten in quite some time, and save the adrenalin rushing through my legs, I was all but dead. Shortly before sunset I had begun to notice that Pecan farms were all around, some stretching away from the road as far as you could see. These farms made for a very intense sunset as the sun dipped down into their leafless branches, casting a very eery glow along the ground.
As I searched for a spot, it was not lost on me that I was pedaling by these massive farms. The problem, they were almost always surrounded by one of these min canals, making entry into them impossible. Finally, after 78 miles I found a farm that stretched off into the distance, no fence, no canal, and only two remote houses near them. That was it, I pulled over, shut off my light and walked the bike back into the middle of the trees. Collapsing in exhaustion, I now had to find a way to eat witout fire, and sleep with no tent. Right now I don't have my bivy, so it was going to be a night under the stars. As for dinner, well a can of Sardines, corn tortillas and fresh brocolli would have to do. Needless to say, it was quite the day, but the glow of El Paso was right there, Texas was soon to be finished and New Mexico up on the plate.