Hitchhiking to Albuquerque

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Photo by Brady Lawrence

We woke this morning to this view above. It was quite the way to start a day.  I ate poptarts with a fine grocery store brand hazelnut spread, and checked the weather forecast.

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Well, suck me sideways. As we were leaving we talked about our options.

  1. Bike 40 miles to Santa Rosa and sleep at the local highschool
  2. Bike 80 miles and camp illegally behind some highway gas station
  3. Bike to Santa Rosa and see if we can hitchhike our way to Albuquerque.

I explain the day less succinctly here.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNKfRruS0cY&w=560&h=315]

Option #3 looked, by far, the most promising. Allow an explanation - I am not one for taking shortcuts. As Frodo himself might say, "Shortcuts make for long delays!" Plus, I think hitching is, in its simplest form, some chemical derivative of cheating. You hitch once, you're gonna hitch again, and then whammo. You're renting with Avis a van to see how close you might get to Alaska during the 24 hour rental period. I like riding my bike,  and like the challenge of fighting to road to reach my goal. I do not like the idea of hitching when I am able to, in any capacity, make it where I want to go on my own volition.

That self-serving paragraph was on the mind between Sumner Lake State Park and Santa Rosa those first nine miles, when the wind was still mild and we were able to pedal 10 mph. Yet there was one corner we climbed and turned for the descent that changed my mind.

We rose and were met with both a view of the vast New Mexico prairie lands and a crosswind that blew me off the shoulder and into the burs and tumbleweeds lining the road. So began our next 30 miles into Santa Rosa, defined by our 6 mph ascents and the 30 mph headwinds and crosswinds and heavy truck traffic speeding by. The trucks were the worst part of the experience. When one passed you going west there would be a momentary lapse in the crosswind, the truck blocking the gusts. You would lean left, now that the balance of wind had been removed from the equation. But when the truck passed and the wind was allowed return you would be slammed right and threatened off the shoulder. It was uncomfortable and unsafe.

And still the wind increased.

So, five hours later in Santa Rosa we sat down in a famous Mexican-American restaurant on old Route 66 and worked out our strategy for hitching to Albuquerque. It went something like this: We'll go to the big Love's gas station and look for pickup trucks. Tyler and Rachel go and talk to everybody, Reese and Brady look sad sitting on the corner in the sun and wind. 

That's what we did. I looked pathetic on the curb with Brady, Tyler and Rachel canvassed the complex. They are much more alpha in these situations, Brady and I baby-backed beta boners afraid of rejection. Plus I looked homeless and confusing in my lycra and so it was generally considered I would just alarm our potential drivers, rather than set them at ease with my bushy mustache and long wavy hair. That was fine with me. I was tired and tragically dehydrated.

Rachel and Tyler were pros. Brady and Rachel picked up a ride with a couple dragging along an empty horse trailer, Tyler and I got to hop in a Suburban with a man named Matt.  Matt was on his way to The Burque (as the locals might say, those crazy New Mexicans) for a public schools conference. He was driving on the school district's dime and was a chatterbox about most things south New Mexico. It was, by all accounts, an amazing experience. We discussed small-town New Mexico, Native American reservations in the southwest corners of America, the effects of the drought, life as a principal, and the latest, juiciest gossip he felt comfortable sharing about his children.

The two hours passed in a blinker stinker. I was farting a lot.

As we drove I was appalled looking at I-40, which was scheduled to be our biking route to The Burque. It was all steep ascents, terrible winds, and amazingly dangerous shoulders. I grew steadier in my conviction that we'd made the right decision poking our thumbs out in Santa Rosa. A good old fashioned Kerouac story, without the rampant alcohol and Benzedrine abuse.

We made it to Albuquerque, and are a week out from our first days in the parks of Utah. Oh my. So it continues.

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