A good first day on the road

I woke up with my alarm, then snuck out of the hotel as quietly as possible with a bag full of my computing gear and my folding chair.  Time for a status meeting.

Morning meeting space.

Morning meeting space in a larger context!

I set up in a corner of the parking lot where the sun would hit me, and dialed in to the Thursday meeting.  It went well.  They asked where Nick was and I didn’t want to embarrass him by saying he’d slept through the alarm, so I just said I would “get ahold of him and check on his status.”  It was good to connect with the crew, and the meeting ran long while we wrapped up the business on the itinerary and then just hung around telling database deployment war stories.

Up and ready for riding and computing.

We packed up our gear and closed the door on our keycards.  Hoping for a thematic midwest breakfast, we rolled down to the Waffle House.  Closed!

On the way out of the parking lot a woman of about 30 approached us.  She was dirty, with tangled hair and threadbare clothing, and by the goofy, detached expression on her face she also appeared to be riding the shoulder of a hard drug addiction.  I said “good morning” in a friendly manner, but took off to cross the street shortly after.  I didn’t have anything to offer except food, and I could see food piled near her possessions already.  So, people are down and out in Albuquerque too…

We crossed the street and checked out a bagel place.  Good snacks there, as well as coffee drinks and water.  We ate while standing around outside in the COVID-free air.  Nick finished his coffee while I topped off my tires, then we swapped.  It was really interesting being on a bike tour with him — it felt easy, because he was already well used to maintaining a bike, carrying gear, riding a recumbent, and navigating.  I knew the pace would probably annoy him after a while, at least when we started hitting steep hills, because he was used to an electric-assisted drivetrain.  But perhaps conversation and scenery and books would balance it out.

... But first, coffee!

Only a quarter mile outside of Albuquerque we paired our headphones and started listening to The Worst Hard Time on audiobook.  We swapped the lead position a few times but usually Nick was in front, setting the pace.  He had to watch his mirror because the audio connection between his headphones and my phone would drop out if we got more than 20 yards apart.

But it was still worth it, because the book was gripping in its detailed descriptions of the dust storms, starvation, and chaos of the Dirty Thirties.  Nick and I were hooked and we listened to it for all six remaining hours of the day’s biking.

Another ghost bike ... another dead cyclist.
Slippery dirt.
Mmm road lunch!

A few hours in, we took a pit stop and adjusted the seat of Nick’s bike, moving it back and making room for his knees to unfold all the way. Then he tried on the shoes with clips.  He was skeptical, but when he did a test ride he found that it was much more efficient.  He had been too cramped before to really use them.  When we took off again he was about 15% faster, and consistently tended to pull ahead of me when he was in front.


(Nick is standing by the road, regarding a row of eucalyptus trees.)

“You know, these stupid trees aren’t native. The Australians brought them here. Now they’re all over.”
“What, they planted them on purpose?”
“Maybe. Maybe they just scattered the seeds everywhere.”
“Like Johnny Appleseed but evil.”
“Jackass Eucalyptus Seed.”

(Several minutes of horrible fake Australian accents ensue.)

“All roight! This looks loike a GREAT playce fer a big ol’ stupid tree! Let me just check me pockets…”

A bit later we stopped to eat leftover pho, and a man came walking out of his house to chat with us.  He had the usual questions about our weird bikes and how far we were going.  We weren’t technically on his property but we were on the drive leading to it, and we were probably the most interesting thing he’d seen from his window in weeks, so I’d been expecting a visit.

It got darker and colder, and by 6:00pm it was fully dark.  We stopped to put on windbreakers, then stopped to put on gloves, then stopped to put on rain pants.  If it had gotten even colder I would have added my sweater and rain socks, but we were alright for the remaining miles to town.


“My butt hurts, but you know what doesn’t hurt?”
“What’s that?”
“My nuts! Thank you, recumbent!”
“Hah! Epic win.”

We ate at Shorty’s BBQ.  The owner reassured us multiple times that we didn’t really need masks, and the place was empty of all customers, and only she was in the front area except for her daughter who delivered the food wearing a mask.  We felt safe enough, though we found all the Trump paraphernalia scattered around the restaurant a bit alarming.  It wasn’t the specific politics that were really the cause of alarm — it was the sheer intensity of it.

This man will appear on currency just a little while after glaciers march across hell.
Route 66 used to have more signs. Now they're on this wall!
Corn syrup meets tricorn.
This was apparently the work desk for the proprietor. Thankfully she didn't mention politics while we were visiting.
Mmmm ribs!
"For such a dry state, these people sure love their fireworks." -Nick

We told her the story of how we were riding to Shattuck to see what our recent ancestors had been living through.  She enjoyed that and wished us a safe journey.

Made it!

Leftovers in hand, we biked the half mile back to the hotel and hunkered down for internet time.

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