WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: Wanderlust 2K or not 2K - San Angelo, Texas
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2000 19:52:28 -0800


    There. In three characters I have spoken an entire day. I-10 as in: sit still for 6 hours in 2 hour increments. I-10 as in: been there, done that, don't want a T-shirt. It is only 350 or so miles from Tucson to Alamogordo, but as for any mental stimulus, it may as well still be the Jornada de Muerto the pioneers named the crossing of the White Sands desert. (Journey of Death)
    The trouble was worth it, though. I had a nice visit with friend Karen, her four cats and two goats just off of Dog Canyon.

    2K or not 2K, that is the question. I am still thrashing for a proper title for this trip. I can't bring myself to call it 2K. I glommed on to computers at an early age and absorbed their ways as my own. I still D98581844081958440E69989A385 in hexadecimal. So to me a K is not 1000 (and even though I ride a K75 ... I'm not talking BMW here :), it is the binary value for 1024. It won't be 2K for another 48 years. There's no hope for us geeks. (The text string above is: Read_and_Write)

    Today was one of those extreme-to-extreme days that makes a trip exciting - the kind of day you expect but hope not to have. It was terror and boredom, freezing and searing. At 9 am there was ice on the road; four hours later it was 89 degrees.
    Karen split off for work as I turned up the mountain toward Cloudcroft. We could see dark flat strata clouds above the crest and she predicted I would "get some sprinkles" near the top. But sprinkles of what?
    Just as I passed the town limit sign at 8,960 feet it started snailing. Yes, snail. Snow hail. If a pellet hit something hard it burst into a large flat splat of snow. If it hit something soft ... like the layer of flat snail already on the ground, it stayed hail. Within 1/2 mile, the road was covered with close to an inch of snail. Now think about this for a moment. It is not just ice on the ground. It is ice in the shape of marbles. Slick enough for ya? As they say in Minnesota, youuuu betcha.
    I slowed to a crawl but was afraid to stop, both for worry of footplant and for fear of not regaining what little traction I had. Luckily there was no other traffic. None except for that pickup truck about 1/4 mile ahead of me. When said pickup suddenly spun out after tapping his brakes, I swear I tail-swallowed half my Russell seat. Fortunately the road was not sloped much where he slid, so as soon as the tires hit the dirt he popped back on track. And I stayed right in his tracks (waaay back). I learned today just how precisely I can control the throttle of a K bike. VERY precisely, and very very smoothly. Thank goodness this isn't a surge-prone oilhead.
    Large snowflakes sting! How they managed to find the only 2 inches of uncovered neck skin is beyond me, but these suckers were so big that four would cover my faceshield.
    The squall lasted all of about 5 miles, and by 20 miles later the sun was out in a clear sky, the road was dry, and I was stopping to take off the extra layers of clothing I had worn prepared for the top. Weird.

    Traveling long distances in open spaces like this, there are not many opportunities to 'meet and greet' except during gas stops. At one, this morning, I rolled the bike over to the deli to take time for coffee. An old time cowboy with facial creases as deep and as worn as the creases in his 10 gallon hat stepped out of his pickup and asked "Where ya headin?"
    He about choked. "On THAT ?!"
    I nodded and he asked again "Where ya come from?"
    Care to guess his response? "On THAT?!" He just shook his head and walked in. By the time I got in, his buddies were speculating how long it would take. Five days? Six?
    "Nope. I'm going to be there Thursday afternoon, but I don't want to take Interstate, can you recommend a good backroad to Austin?" That got them to arguing sufficiently long enough for me to finish my coffee and make my own decision.

    On the east face of the range, the map may say New Mexico but the land says West Texas. It may be another 100 miles to the border, but the high plains are indistinguishable for as far as you can see. And here begins the wind that will slake the land for a thousand miles. Gathering speed as it rolls off the slopes, it kept me tilted over while riding straight. The MSF teaches a bike has to lean in order to turn, but today proved again a bike does not have to turn in order to lean.
    The wind at my back played havoc with my mileage. After more than 100 miles on the clock the FuelPlus was telling me I still had 180 miles remaining. Not even if you dropped it out of the space shuttle could the bike get that kind of mileage, so I was trying to calculate where to stop for gas.
    I blew it.
    Coming off a side road from Artesia I saw a sign "Eunice 54 miles". Oops, I only have 62 miles left in the tank - and considering the wind, leaving a cushion of single digits seemed like pushing my luck after slidelessly surviving the snail storm this morning. So I turned around and headed to Carlsbad. Right into the wind. Oops again. That 62 miles remaining degenerated to 24 miles by the time I pulled up to a pump - and the pump was only 17 miles from where I turned around. You do the math.
    At least the downwind return to my route was fun ... ever play tumbleweed slalom? One or two jumping into the road is just debris. Ten at once is like threading through a video game.
    Interesting sign at the beginning of NM360: This road subject to sinkholes and subsidence. (The road crosses right over the US Potash Reserve.)

    New Mexico is one of the few states which still marks every passing zone with a road sign. Even way out in the most desolate open spaces where it is unlikely two cars are even on the same road at the same time, the sign says PASS WITH CARE. Somewhere between Carlsbad and Eunice I stopped for a necessary nature visit. As I was, ummm, observing nature, I glanced up at the sign near me. It was very weathered and sandblasted from the wind. The first letter A had most of its right side obliterated, so it looked like an italicized I. How appropriate. :):)
    If what I saw in West Texas is any indication, the new dust bowl has already begun. There has been some speculation about fallow land contributing to conditions similar to the beginnings of the dust bowl of the 1930s. I rode through two dust storms today that were so dense you could barely see the road surface. The tops of these curtains reached high enough to begin 'topping out' like cumulus clouds. And there was an eerie added warmth inside the swirl from the dust holding the sun's heat. Only hours ago I was bundled against snow and hail, now I am sweltering, bundled to keep dust out. What a crazy day.

    Clipping off miles was easy on the 70-means-80 Texas backroads. Because I wanted to take some extra time to study a Texas map before I got 'deep in the heart', I decided to pull up early and aimed for a motel in San Angelo. As I swooped into the lot and parked for registration, a roughneck cowboy stopped his loping amble toward his truck and came beside me. "Are yew fixin t'get a room?", he said.
    If I were still in my city dweller trim, I would immediately have engaged Scam Alert. But the guy seemed neither in need nor tense, so I just nodded and said "Yep, if they have one." (The lot was empty but for one car.)
    He said, "I just paid for my room but I got a call and I can't stay. You can have it for free. Let's go in and I'll tel them to give it to you." He did. They did. They were as amazed as I was. I thanked him and he wouldn't take anything for it.
    I understand this. On several occasions I have stopped to help motorcyclists or motorists in need. Rather than accepting a gratuity I tell them - return the favor by stopping to help someone else when you can. Eventually it comes back to you. Karma, neh? Hai, dozo.

433 miles
Alamogordo US82 NM360 US62 NM176-TX176 US87 San Angelo
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

Previous Index Next
© 1997, 1999, 2000