Directly outside of my window the sun is beginning to rise, casting light on a line of recent retirees, a dozen or so of them lined up at a folding table. Each one is grazing from a display of continental breakfast items and packing their lunches, preparing for the eighty five mile bike ride that is ahead of them. The group they’re with is being led by Adventure Cycling, a professional tour company who sees to it that their daily provisions are met and then carries all of their gear for them in a van to the next destination.
It was high noon when Jo and I left the town of Marathon yesterday. Sanderson is the next town over and the only place to find water for more than fifty miles. Riding through the arid subtropical climate I form a habit of smiling and waiving at those passing in the opposite direction. I’ve been doing this since I left San Diego some thirteen hundred miles ago.
Glancing at the horizontal scale on my map, it had indicated that we’d be descending a little over one thousand feet on our days trek. The wind was blowing in from the southwest, providing a boost of pressure that pushed Jo and I along like a windsurfer on the sea. We came skimmering (I’m not sure if skimmering is a word, but I’m going with it) in to the motel parking lot, our fifty three miles for the day seem effortless, though they’re not, we arrive in under three hours and thirty minutes.
After meeting Danny, the soft spoken Indian who owns the place and makes us welcome, I’m pointed to my room. Danny offers every pedaler a snack tray to take with them, myself included, and he waived the pet fee for Jo.
The Adventure Cycling folks had set up a temporary camp kitchen in the parking lot and were lining their lawn chairs up in a circle like they’re getting ready to play a childhood game.
Jo, along with the wagon I pull him in, and his backpack with provisions, weighs in at about seventy five pounds. My two rear panniers hold only the essentials. My clothing consists of; one pair of socks, one bike jersey, one long sleeve, a pair of base layers that come in handy on cool mornings or to lounge around in the evening at camp and a down puffy coat that folds up to the size of my fist. Oh, and two pair of those awkward bike shorts. Most of the time, I can stand these salt soaked items up in a corner at the end of the day.
After settling into my room, I casually walked out toward the dirt filled swimming pool a few minutes after hearing the dinner bell. Richard, the New Yorker, is seated with his comrades, holding a bowl of the gruel they concocted for dinner. He pipes up with his accent and says to me, “Hey Rev, you hungry?”
He’s calling me The Reverend, a nickname he’s trying to make stick. I sit down with the group and spoon feed myself a delicious meal that sticks to my ribs. I compliment the cooks and thank all of the others for providing for me. After supper, I join them, walking a mile down the main drag for an ice cream at the local Dairy King. I have three, one of each flavor; chocolate, strawberry and pineapple.
As I was taking Shoeless Jo out to the lawn last night, the owner, Danny came walking over and asked me to join him for ‘Indian tea’ in the morning. He also mentioned that he would like to send me down the road with some vegetarian snacks. What a kind man he is.
Packing enough water to get us through the desert to the next source is always my concern. It’s a guessing game and one that I don’t want to lose at, but have on more than one occasion. Shade is one thing I’m not packing and today the weather man calls for a high of ninety two.
After spending thirty four days riding cross-country under the searing-sun, my skin is starting to look like a tanned hide, my soul is warmed up and I’m happier, and my legs are like the fierce firing pistons of a locomotive that propel Jo and I down the back roads of America.