Saturday, February 12, 2011
Thank goodness for bad weather
Seriously, these past few days would have been very different if it were sunny and warm instead of cold and snowy. The second snowfall of New Mexico started in Santa Rosa only minutes after we zipped up our tent for the night. Santa Rosa was supposed to get maybe an inch of snow, but we woke up with our tent covered and no signs of it stopping.
We painfully decided it'd be best to wait out the storm in a motel. One of the perks of the motel? A T.V! And it just happened to be Superbowl Sunday. We decided to splurge for our first holiday on the road. We went out to the grocery store, bought chips, dip and chili-makings and came back to feast in front of the television. After missing the entire first half of the game changing rooms to find a room with a working television, we made it in time for the half time show. There was something so comforting about partaking in an activity that all of America was doing at the same time.
Because of all the time spent waiting for the weather to get better, Adam and I tried as hard as we could to get to Amarillo, Texas before storm #3 came in. We packed in a 100 mile day before the storm, and woke up at 5:00 the next morning to try and beat it to Amarillo. That night, we were lucky to stay inside at Russell's Truck & Travel Center only a few miles from the Texas boarder. When James, the manager, heard we wanted a place to camp, instead he offered us a place in the Travel Center's Route 66 Museum filled with memorabilia and an amazing collection of classic cars. I'm not sure if Adam did any sleeping that night he was so excited to take pictures of the 3rd-off-the-line Ford Thunderbird and the 1959 Corvette with 1.1 miles on the odometer. I just thought it was cool that Yoda was watching over us as we slept that night(he's over in the left side of the pic).
That's James, below!
Adam going trigger-happy with the camera!
The next morning, the gusty winds blowing against us should have clued us in immediately, but we had it in our heads to get to Amarillo where we had a warm bed waiting for us for a few nights to wait out the storm. We even made it to Texas and as we were filming the ride to the state line, I laughed at New Mexico for trying to keep us there.
Well, two hours of biking, one Texas state line dance, and only seven miles down the road, New Mexico got the last laugh. We finally gave in to mother nature, turned around and headed, shivering, back into the New Mexico Welcome Center. It was discouraging to make it four miles into Texas just to turn around, but it was the right decision.
Very quickly upon entering into the welcome center, we received a text from James. He was worried about us riding in the stormy weather and wanted us to let him know immediately how we were doing. I called him back and without hesitation, he offered us another night's accommodation at Russell's.
So this time, after getting a ride back to Russell's (we agreed that getting rides backwards is OK) James told us we'd be sleeping in the chapel and gave us a key to a bathroom to keep our things safe and take a shower. What courtesy he was giving to us strangers! We spent the day there, and as more and more people came in, it was obvious this was a tight-knit community. Ranchers started coming up to us asking if we were the bikers! How did they even know? There wasn't a single house around, but these 'locals' all knew we were there.
Late in the day, right before Adam and I were about to have dinner, James approached us again and told us that Don, the rancher who gave us the ride from the welcome station, called him up and told him he was on his way to take us to his house to wait out the storm. We were in awe. He was coming out in a blizzard to pick up two strangers and take them to his home with his wife and daughter!
While at the McCoy's, Adam and I were treated like royalty. They gave us a bedroom and offered us a shower and laundry. And if we lost any weight in this trip we gained it back in that day and 1/2 stay. That night we ate Don's cheesy potato soup. Tina, his wife, made sausage and apple waffles the next morning. We had chili for lunch and then their neighbor, Paul, invited us for dinner the next night and made Thai food. It was a strange feeling, eating home-cooked, yummy Thai food at a big old ranch in the middle of nowhere New Mexico, but it felt so good.
Paul's chopping up beef from the farm for our Thai food!!
Beer in a mason jar!
Paul wouldn't let us leave without giving us eight burritos to bring along with us for lunch for the next few days. His reasoning for eight was that three of them weren't as huge as the others. Don wasn't joking when he told us, "If you starve here, it's your own damn fault."
On Wednesday when we couldn't ride because of the cold, Adam asked Don if he could drive around and help him with the chores around the ranch. Like usual, this consisted of someone else doing the work and Adam taking pictures, but I was sure glad he did because I didn't step foot outside that cold, cold day but with Adam's pictures, I felt like I experienced it all while keeping warm inside.
When the forecast finally called for some warmer weather on Thursday(into the 20's), Don brought us back to the truck stop to try again for Amarillo. Clear skies and a very slight west wind gave us hope we'd make it this time. We sat down for breakfast with Don, happily thinking we could pay for his and give him just a little something back in return for all he had done, but as soon as he got his coffee, his phone rang. See, Don's the guy you call when anything happens in town, and the bus had gotten stuck that morning, so off he went. We ate our breakfast without Don and sat a while, waiting for the temperature to rise a bit. Some of Don's "neighbors" came by to chat with us while we sat. We asked how far away they actually lived from Don and they laughed and told us, " 'Bout 14 miles or so." I guess that's a next door neighbor when you've gott 55 sq mile ranches.
A little while later, what do you know, Don shows up! He unstuck the bus and came back for his breakfast. When we argued over paying the bill, Don told the waitress, "If you want a good tip, you'll know who to bring the bill to." After everything he had done for us: rides to the truck stop, to his house and back, all sorts of food, a warm bed and good conversation, we couldn't even pay for his breakfast! I guess the deal is that he'll be visiting CT one of these days and we'll get to pay him back then. And I believe him, too. He helped out one guy from Germany a few years back and what do you know, they actually went to Germany to visit!
With that, it was time for us to leave the surprising little sanctuary we found in Endee, New Mexico. But they weren't done yet. On our cold journey to Amarillo that day, we had more truckers beeping and waving at us as we biked along the interstate than anywhere else we'd been. James must have been spreading the word about these two crazy bikers, trying to ride through blizzards and such for charity, and these Texas truckers were happy to give us room on the road and a good luck wave!
We finally made our way to Amarillo where we met Paul again. He let us stay with him and his wife in their home in Amarillo, brought us to the best burger dive around(wouldn't let us pay), made us a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, and toast, and helped us navigate our way out of town the next morning amongst snow-filled roads.
While we were biking yesterday, Adam and I talked about how ignorant we had been. Before, this had all just been flat ground with some cows every once in a while. Now, we knew what was behind it all. Real ranchers. Real cowboys. Real working farms! Good people, hard at work, willing to take in a stranger who needed a little help.
So although we were thankful for the storm, we really are ready for some warmer weather. And today we got it! Though I still started the day off like usual, with bike shorts, bike pants, weatherproof pants, an Underarmour shirt, a cycling jersey, a cycling jacket, my weatherproof shell, my balaclava (ski mask), a hat, a helmet cover, two pairs of shoe covers and winter gloves, I ended the day with half that and even a little sweat. As we rode into Oklahoma today (state #5) the birds sang to us, giving us hope for spring.
Fun one-liners from the trip so far.
"You guys training for the winter olympics?"
"Y'all know your nuts, right?"
"You got snow chains for those tires?"
"D'ya have heat on those things?"