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Wheels on the bike go round and round 21: Taking It Easy
by Mike Jennett
2009-07-16 10:43:05
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Today, we crossed the Rio Grande.

Not with John Wayne and the Tenth Cavalry, not as cause-bound freedom fighters and without wagons, guns or canon. We had bicycles in place of horses and we crossed the big river to reach the town of Albuquerque.

It is now 4 riding days and 329 miles since the euphoria of reaching my personal Nirvana at Flagstaff. I have thighs Superman would envy and an ego to match. The belt that wouldn’t fit three weeks ago is now on its third hole and my trousers fall down without it.

After a self-indulgent rest day in Flagstaff (beer, movie and oh, oh, oh, Starbucks, how I missed thee) we continued with overnight stops at Holbrook, Gallup and Grants – which deserves a tribulation all of its own.

Riding again after the day off felt like going back to school, until I realized that this is meant to be fun and changed my mindset accordingly. Riding is fun. Fixing flats is fun. Constantly adjusting bike computers to match cue sheets is fun. Hills are fun. Melted sunscreen running into your eye is fun. Quads screaming in exhausted agony is fun. It’s all good.

Popular music here has always been influenced by Americana; New Jersey Turnpike in the wee wee hours (Chuck Berry’s ‘Mabelline’), an uncountable number of songs about cities, Get Your Kicks on Route 66 (everyone). It’s curious to find one example of exactly the opposite in Winslow, Arizona, where a giant wall mural on a corner of Route 66 depicts a girl (my Lord) in a flat bed Ford (slowing down to take a look at me). Thank you, Eagles.

What’s left of Route 66 falls into two categories – stretches designated as historic, upon which restoration money has been spent to create a linear tourist attraction and other lengths that remain there simply because the people who live on it won’t move. The Jackrabbit Trading Post, once famous all the way from Canada to California, now exists on its own remnant of Route 66, which ends in dirt less than a mile past it in one direction and several hundred yards in the other.

The rest, for the most part, has disintegrated into a dirt track. Anyone traveling the route it once served will now join speeding trucks and cars on the anonymous I40, never knowing they are so close to a piece of history that has been allowed to decay and vanish.

I learned on Tuesday, courtesy of a fellow rider, that the Continental Divide – that we pedaled across – is not the part of America that would form prime beach front property should Lex Luthor get his wish and cause an earthquake. It has something to do with watersheds but, before your eyes glaze over and you start to recall the word trainspotter, I do not know and do not care what that is.

Perhaps if I stand on one side and take a piss I would get wet legs but, if I did the same on the other side, a jet of wee would shoot a hundred yards. That would be the non-scientific explanation. Women shouldn’t try this experiment.

Now we’re in Albuquerque and what’s here? Nothing, as far as I can tell. It’s the wrong spot on the Rio Grande to watch Mexicans floating downstream to get into the US illegally and too far from the old town area to visit without a lot of hassle. The only entertainment close to this outpost of humanity where we stay seems to be the bar of the Hilton hotel next door.

After a week of fighting crosswinds, headwinds, exhaustion and swearing at some of my compatriot riders, who appear to believe that riding on the left and entirely blocking the shoulder when they stop is the right way to behave, I have only a sad hotel bar for salvation. It probably even has a piano player.

What is my life coming to?

Read more at: www.mikeonwheels.com OR www.wheelsonthebikegoroundandround.blogspot.com     

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