Day 56--45 Miles
The end of the pavement--Snakes, Spiders, Windmills and a van heading north...eventually
I forgot to mention the reason we all had a great position and sleeping arrangement to finish today was because of the kind generosity of Hachita local Sam Hughes, and his dog Bear. Not sure what number angel that is but you get the point. The six of us turned his front yard into a small Tent City and we planned to store all the gear in the largest tent and head to the border on mostly empty bikes. Most of us agreed that riding the empty bikes made us feel like Hercules (or whatever the cycling equivalent to that is!). We had a plan to get each of us from the border, so that made the final 45 miles even that much more enjoyable with no more logistics to work out. Half of us needed to get to Tucson and the other half to Albuquerque. One of the guys (Jerry) is from Eastern NM and kindly arranged a way (with the help of his step-brother) to get us shuttled with a couple different vehicles. One group would have to wait while the other got on one vehicle back to Columbus, NM where the other van was waiting.
You know where this is going right?!
After a mostly monotonous ride (except for the snakes, spiders and windmills) we arrived at the International Border. Congratulating commenced and then we headed to the sign for the photo-ops. Border Patrol was unusually friendly (nothing like my entrance into the US those many weeks earlier) and the "head guy" gave all of us ice cream sandwiches to celebrate with. I was truly impressed with the kindness bestowed upon us. We sat there glowing in our tiny moment of victory, fame and grand accomplishment and began the final particulars of everyone's transport "the hell out of here".
That's when someone noticed the van...
We had heard of theses occasional "gypsy" buses that transport people North to Phoenix (via Tucson) but knew it was literally a hit-or-miss thing that was unreliable at best. But this van looked as legit as anything, in fact there were two of them, each toting a trailer behind. A trailer simply "made" for bike hauling!! Again the border control guy's kindness shined as he knew three of us were heading to Tucson and would rather not wait the 2-3 hours for Jerry's brother to come back if possible. He spoke to the woman in charge and it was agreed that one of the vans would take us three "smelly's" and our bikes to Tucson for a shockingly low price of $25 bucks each. You could say we were ever-so-slightly ecstatic. It took a while for both of the vans (and all their passengers) to clear customs and we were to meet them "up there" when both vans got through. We took our bikes a few hundred feet past the border back into the US and proceeded to watch all the passengers get off one van and get onto another. My first thought was "oh, look how nice and accommodating they are to make room for us three and our bikes". We loaded the bikes into the trailer and hopped on the now empty van, man this was so easy!! The other van made a U-turn back to the border and ours followed. "What the...?"
As we watched the other van GO BACK into Mexico the driver stopped ours and said he can't take us to Hachita. Three jaws dropped open. but we just made the arrangements with two interpreters about 77 seconds ago...what changed in the meantime? He asked if we could call our friends, who had now left us thinking, as we had, that we had a ride to Tucson. no cell coverage. Now we sat with no ride back to get our stuff since our new ride had changed plans and our original ride thought we got an upgrade.
the guy got out and went back towards customs to talk to his other van-people. There we sat in veritable limbo-land. After what seemed like a short eternity he agreed to take us up to Hachita, pick up our gear from Sam's yard, and come back to the border and get to Tucson via another border crossing. What? Why? Only two of the three of us had a passport and we weren't comfortable going into Mexico with this arrangement so when he got us back to Sam's we paid for 1/3 of the $75 total and said that we would rather wait here. If he were to come back through in an hour or two we would be waiting, otherwise we have to find another way to Tucson. He said he had to go back to the border and get the remainder of the party and would be back for us...we didn't hold our breath. We figured it was about a 50-50 chance that we'd see him again as we now started formulating scenarios that would get us to Tucson. Nearly all of them involved MORE PEDALING as my mind almost couldn't imagine a more cruel joke.
At nearly two hours to the minute when we unloaded our stuff the van pulled up in front of Sam's place as we all sat there hot, exhausted and irritable. "Gentlemen, our ship has arrived" I remember saying as we were ecstatic to see the sight of that thing. We re-loaded the bikes and all our gear, hopped on, and in minutes were FLYING down the road. In an unplanned synchronicity we all looked at each other in shock at how FAST we were ZIPPING down the road!! as quickly as it all seemed to fall apart it got put back together, it felt almost make believe.
Watching the landscape whiz by at 75 mph was kind of frightening at first, good God he's driving fast! At the first stop for pee and gas one of us bought some Dramamine form the remaining two hours to Tucson. We got dropped off where the interstate meets a main road headed North to Downtown and South towards the airport. We had different ideas of where to spend the night so it was here that we parted ways. I spent the next HOUR, now almost dark, before I found a hotel! Apparently the adventure had one last laugh to get out of me!
So I'm in Tucson resting and waiting for a few days for my flight out to Syracuse. I need to find the bike shop to box up my bike and then the grocery store for pop-tarts.