Initially I planned to stay just for a night at Rons place in Portal before heading to Mexico. Well, one thing led to another and I ended up staying three nights and spending New Years with him and his equally delightful friends Greg and Jennifer from Scottsdale.
I spend the first day hiking a spectacular canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains. The range completely blows me away - the first peaks of the Sierra Madre which I hope to follow for the better part of my stage through Mexico. Not only the big storm rolling in on New Years Eve but also the chance to spend the evening in good company instead of alone in my tent, made the decision for another night easy.
I go jeeping with Greg and Jen in the snow-covered mountains which is a lot of fun. We enjoy some insane vista's and great conversations before we get back to the house where Ron treats us, once again, with his superior cooking skills. Besides being an extremely generous and nice guy, Ron impresses me in particular with his interesting career [which amongst others includes having an Inn in Vermont, running a gold mine and living as a monk], his great history knowledge and his awesome earthshipe type off-grid home.
When I set out in the light rain and insane wind on New Years morning I feel extremely refreshed for some reason. Well, not for some reason... Jen, Greg, Ron thank you so much for showing me such a great time!
As mentioned, in the aftermath of Christmas I noticed quite a melancholic feeling for a few days for which I still remain unable to pinpoint a distinct reasoning. Maybe it also doesn't matter all that much since now I am ready for a new year of exciting adventures.
For at least the last 8 years I developed some sort of a pattern for New Years Eve when it comes to the year ahead. A year of change is followed by a year of consistency and I always anticipated that on New Years Eve already.
While 2021 was clearly a year of change I am now awaiting a year of consistency. Given the nature of my current life that might seem odd, but 2022 will be, what I hope, the actual year of this trip. It always takes time to settle into a journey and to realize the new reality. For a couple of weeks I feel this settling-in more and more.
Settled in my aerobars the cycling year starts great, too. I litterally blast through the first two hours averaging a speed in the 40s [Maybe, just maybe the 50km/h tailwinds help]. I race with the tumbleweeds left and right of the road [thank you Scott, for educating me in terms of plant science]. Occasionally they crash into Klaus while they cross the road. A wide valley, endless sky, fast moving clouds, light rain on and off, countless rainbows, a total of 7 cars during the first 80km of which 4 were border patrol - a fantastic first ride.
After a wrong turn [my mapping apps suggested a short cut to the border that ended in the nowhere] and backtracking 10km in extreme head- and cross-wind that literally blew me off the road twice I reach Hachita fairly late around 4PM [I am in New Mexico now, BTW].
Hachita is a great little stop. I meet Jeff at the gas station who runs it. He just rode the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and ended up 10th place his first time officially racing it this year arriving after 40 days [congrats!]. I was hoping to take this route, too [goes from Banff, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico following the Continental Divide] but I was simply to late in the season to do it. Since the route passes Hachita as the last town, many avid bikepackers pass by every year and I am proud to be the first in 2022.
Jeff and I are very enthusiastic about meeting each other and enjoy a great chat before I head off to my last junction in the US - Highway 81, 45 miles to Antelope Wells, 45 miles to the border, 45 miles to my next country, 45 miles to the next big chapter. I burst of excitement, goosebumps, golden hour, the now cross-wind shakes me around, I sing out loud a few of my current favorite songs...
This raw and pure excitement comes at a surprise and is a true relief for me. The last days I had very mixed feelings about getting to Mexico. Many non-cyclists I met over the past couple of months liked to point out the questionable reputation of Mexico and express their worries about me, even though only a small fraction of them have ever visited the country. On the opposite side all [just to be clear here, ALL] cyclists that I met who have had cycled through Mexico named the country as one of their all time favorite touring destinations. While it is pretty obvious to me which breed of people I do trust more, believe me the other side still works on you...
Trying to find reasoning for my sudden pure excitement, I feel like Jeff deserves a big credit for that. I don't even say it to him but just by himself he mentioned something. A few cyclists he met in Hachita intending to proceed towards Mexico happened to share their insecurities with him. I guess, that statement alone subconsciously took a huge chunk of my shoulders.
Of course, all of them had a great time in Mexico! Then he goes on with his own admiration for the country and with a great recommendation for me to stay the first night. Thank you, Jeff!
About halfway to Antelope Wells it gets too dark and I find a rather wind-shelterd spot to spend my last night under the beautiful American star sky. While the last gusts of the storm blast left and right of me creating an ocean-like sound I watch the shooting stars fly by.