Live A Big Life Ride

living big to create opportunity

Day 17: March 21, Fort Hancock to Van Horn

Our motel in Fort Hancock left many things to be desired, so we got up and out of there quickly and hit the road. The route put us on a series of tiny farm roads that wove through a series of farms as well as goat and cattle ranches, right next to the Mexican boarder. The first 15 miles were the least stressful we had encountered yet on this trip, passing a grand total of maybe 4 cars. For whatever reason, however, the second quarter of our riding each day tends to be the most painful, at least psychologically. It’s after the initial excitement for the day wears off, and it’s before the halfway point so you can’t count down yet. We huffed and puffed our way to mile 40, where we hit a small town called Sierra Blanca and stopped for lunch at Subway, where we both put back an entire footlong with such ease, it was almost disconcerting.


Morning Texas farming


We saw a ton of this kind of thing along the way

Reinforced with something other than cliff bars and almonds, we sailed through the second half of the day! Aided by our first sustained tail wind (we don’t actually say “tail wind” outload for fear that it will cause the Wind Gods to turn it around on us, we commented that we had “Voldemort on our side” because it is the thing that shall not be named), we whipped through some more desert peaks and valleys, crossed into another time zone (already in Central time!) and arrived in Van Horn before 4pm.


Feeling very happy about these Voldemorts




Feasting on almonds and raisins



Day 15: March 20, El Paso to Ft. Hancock

In El Paso, we stayed with my friend Blair and her family. Blair was in my post bacc program at NYU and is easily one of the funniest people I know. I’m not sure I would have made it through the last couple years of school without Blair. By happy coincidence, she home in El Paso for spring break from dental school. She and her parents graciously hosted us, took us out for our first meal in Texas (BBQ and margaritas!) and let us do literally all our laundry. It was a total dream come true. We were very sad to leave but eventually took off and headed east along the Mexican border. Now begins the long stretch through west Texas which is basically just a countdown till we get to take a couple days off and spend time with family in Austin.

west tex
One of many days heading east in Texas
Our amazing hosts in El Paso


Days 12, 13 & 14: March 17, 18 and 19, Flying Through New Mexico


Just for the record, Madeleine does have eyes and I do not have a snaggle tooth. But we made it to NM nonetheless!

Our route had us just briefly in New Mexico, so we decided to mix things up and do some sight seeing while we were there. Up until this point we really just bike, eat and sleep, and there hasn’t been much time for seeing the sights because even going 10 miles out of the way for something ends up being a ton of time, takes us away from campsights, and adds miles to our weary legs. But before we left the Southwest we figured we had to see some stuff!

Silver City, NM is a great little mountain town in the south central part of the state. Its silver mining routes are evident everywhere you look, and it has also grown into having a healthy arts scene, with streets lined with art galleries and shops. We spent St. Patrick’s day evening there at the little bar/brewery in town (Little Toad Creek Brewery – not the best we’ve had but a fun local experience) and then much of the next day as well, wandering into shops and having several cups of coffee at various coffee houses.


The street art of Silver City


Fortunately, she’s tall

Then we headed up through the Gila Wilderness to the Gila Cliff Dwellings, where the regional Native Americans inhabited caves way up through the winding mountains between 1270 and 1300 AD.


The Dwellings from below


View from inside the caves


Madeleine the modern day cave dweller

We then stopped briefly in Las Cruces to check out the local brewery for lunch, before continuing south into Texas!


Sampling the local flavors wherever we go






The Finest Cast of Characters We Could’ve Found So Far

When we’re out on the road and peddling from one place to another, meeting and interacting with different people along the way has never struck us as being so important. A friendly local will give us the inside scoop as we try to decode a new place, another biking traveler will reassure us that we’re not the only ones who are bat sh*t crazy enough to do this. But probably most importantly, our major takeaway in these first two weeks is that people everywhere are inherently kind, curious, and supportive. Here’s a breakdown of the best of best from the cast of characters we’ve gotten to know so far.

1. Bert, Bubba and the crew of Senior Citizens: Remember that day we went straight into a whistling head wind and up over 4,000 feet of horribly steep mountain roads? It was easy to get down that day but the 46 older folks we biked along side made it all doable! Bubba, the big and talkative organizer of the crew, offered us not only useful information about the day down to the mile marker, but also invited us to replenish our food and water supplies with his support van anytime we wanted. When you’re in the middle of no where and carrying all your own stuff, that’s a valuable offer! And then there was Bert, the powerhouse of a 75 year old who was casually biking across the country in her retirement. Towards the end of the climbing, we asked Bert how her day had gone, and she offered up some wisdom: “Well, I had to get off and walk for the first time. I’m disappointed, but not embarrassed.”


As we took this, Bubba exclaimed “A picture? Sure! It’s not everyday a fat bald guy gets asked for a picture by two pretty young ladies.”


Bert the Badass

2. Warren: We encountered Warren when we were nearing the end of our day into Hope, AZ. We stopped at a convenience store and Warren approached, curious about what we were up to. He said we only had probably 12 miles to go, hopped in his pick-up truck and headed home, which was about 8 miles past where we were going. It ended up being 16 miles to our destination – no biggie – but when we got there Warren was there! He said “I felt so badly that I told you girls it was only 12, and it must’ve been more like 20! So I wanted to make sure you got in alright.” He even then told us that he has a trailer next to his house with a queen bed, and invited us to stay there. We politely declined, but appreciated every bit of Warren’s caring generosity.

3. Joyce and Gene Robert: Warm Showers is a network of people across the country that offer their homes to weary biking travelers, and sometimes they let you camp in their yard, sometimes they offer a bed, and sometimes they offer a warm meal or two. We tried it out for the first time in Safford, AZ, and wound up staying with a wonderful elderly couple named Joyce and Gene Robert along with 4 other cyclists. They are all the rage on cycling forums, known to be the best host you could ask for in this part of the country. Joyce cooked all 6 of us a tasty dinner AND hearty breakfast, offered some memorable quotes to remember them by, and was totally un-phased by the stampede of smelly bikers in their living room.


Madeleine with Joyce

4. Frankie: the mysterious 18 year old Londoner who’d never been to the USA so he decided to bike across the South! What a guy. We haven’t been biking along side him, but being on the same route with approximately the same schedule, we’ve run into him time and time again. He’s always good for a laugh or a story, and we’ve appreciated his companionship along the way.

5. Scott: The 51 year old Iowan who is dragging an 80 lb. trailer behind all these curvy, hilly roads! He gave us perspective. He’s doing the same thing as us, the same route (until we cut up North), but going about it very differently. He’s doing many less miles each day, really taking his time and managing his expectations in a way that’s working for him. We appreciated his chipping-away attitude towards the trip, as well as the fact that he found hilarity in many of the same small town things we do.


Scott and his trailer

6. Lois: The owner of the RV Park in Globe, AZ, who felt sorry for us having just climbed that day’s mountain range and offered up her home for us to shower in. This is the kind of complete stranger kindness that you can never count on, but is more common than we could have possibly imagined going into this trip. What a lady!

7. Karen in Tempe: Madeleine’s mother is longtime friends with Karen, and set us up on a social date when we were in Tempe. Karen is a funny, kind and super smart “retired” professor at Arizona State University, who actually holds three jobs in her “retirement.” We went out for what had thus far been an anomolous experience in our trip: we were showered (woah), didn’t eat out off our camp stove (thank goodness), and had the kind of “normal adult evening” that we had been craving. She also asked us the kind of questions only a mother could ask  - things about our safety and well-being that are comforting to be asked when we’re on this trip.

8. Ahmed: This was our Uber cab driver in Tempe – we had to go to REI and refused to ride our bikes on our day off. Ahmed was completely and utterly astounded at what we were doing, and basically could say nothing but “I mean, wow! I’m thinking about this that you’re telling me, and wow!” He also said, and we appreciated this, “I don’t want to be weird but when you walked over I noticed you legs and, wow, the muscles!” He’s from Egypt and told us that a few years ago he walked across the entire Grand Canyon with his wife, and when I responded “wow!” he interrupted and said “no, NO. That is not wow. YOU are WOW!

We can’t wait to see who else we find in our next leg of the trip.

Day 11: March 16, Globe to Safford

The local coffee shop, rated 5 stars, in Globe said it opened at 6:30. So we rolled out of camp in the cold temperatures with that in mind, only to find that it (along with so many other useful things) is closed on Sunday. BUMMER. So instead we settled in for another gourmet breakfast in the Safeway grocery store parking lot.


At one point an older guy came over and reminded us “you won’t get to where you’re going by sitting here!” We said that was a good point, but we didn’t really mean it.

For whatever reason, probably having to do with being tired from the big day the day before, this day was a challenge. Some days you have it, some you don’t, and this day we were both struggling a bit. There wasn’t too much in the way of climbing, and there was a steady but not-too-strong headwind, but it took us forever to go the 81 miles this day had in store. Long stretches of monotonous Arizona desert, punctuated with the occasional field of cactus and mountain view was about all we saw this day.

Most of the route had us going through an Apache Native American reservation. We had two hilarious encounters:

At an early rest stop, a heavyset Apache man came over and introduced himself as Kevin, asked us where we were headed, etc. Then he said “well, you know, you better watch out on the roads today, because tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and a lot of drivers will have been drinking. They could clip you out there!” And we thought, who knew that St. Patty’s was such a big holiday for the Apaches! And also by “clip us”, do you mean “run us over?” Then, he continued, “wow, New York City! When you get there tell all your friends you met a real Apache. We’re still here, we didn’t all die!” We told him we’d pass along his information, which I guess that’s what I’m doing now.

A little while later we pulled over on the side of the road for a water break, and we saw/heard a man who was clearly WASTED stumbling up behind us. He got 2 feet away from us, asked for a ride to the top of the hill (we said no), told us we were beautiful girls, with beautiful bikes, and as we bike away he told us we had beautiful butts too. A real triple-decker of compliments.

We huffed and puffed our way into Safford, AZ, a bigger town in eastern Arizona. In Safford we had set up our first ever Warm Showers experience, with a man named Mons who is all the rage on the bike touring blogs we’ve been reading. It was exactly as good as we had read. Mons was away on a camping trip, but his 19 year old son greeted us and showed us to the grandparent’s house, where a crew of 4 other bike tourists were also staying. We’re talking old school, rural Arizona experience. The entire place was covered in floral furniture, and the grandparent couple had been married 64 years and lived in Safford their whole lives. Grandma Joyce made us all a dinner of corned beef, potatoes, polenta, sour cream, buttery beans, and canned cabbage. We soon realized they’re Mormons, which is only notable because one of the other bikers had gotten there and cracked himself a Corona beer (apparently he didn’t get the Mormon memo of no alcohol). They were incredibly welcoming and hospitable, and since they’re frequent Warm Showers hosts they knew exactly what us tired bikers wanted and needed. The 19 year old son, Kyle, then put us to work putting together 2,000 Boy Scouts triathalon race packets – apparently all the bikers coming through these days get to be a part of that effort. A small price to pay in exchange for a warm meal! Then Joyce made us all flax-whole wheat – oatmeal – quinoa waffles this morning, complete with strawberry sauce (“I take the strawberry snow cone syrup and throw in a few real strawberries”) and whipped cream.


Madeleine and our awesome host, Joyce