Despite the ominous signs, we delayed some more. Local birding expert Jerry Oldenettel guided us to a cattle-watering tank in the desert. It was a great place to see hard-to-find longspurs. When we left in the mid-afternoon we really needed to get some miles behind us. Then we stopped at a sign commemorating the first ever atomic bomb blast, which occurred a few miles south of our route. Then we stopped for a mountain bluebird that crossed our path. We had been watching for this bird since we left Whitehorse. We had to drag Malkolm and his camera away from incredibly blue bird. Finally we set up camp on a flattish, silty spot in the lee of a small hill. I hoped we would not get pinned down there.
Yukoners will not sympathize with us, having to endure one day of winter.
Next day the storm hit us. I washed our breakfast dishes, and the water turned to ice. When I put them on the ground, the silt turned to mud and froze to the bottoms. I rewashed them. Then I had to warm up my hands in my armpits. We pushed our bikes out from the lee of our little hill, and got blasted. The wind gusted to 30 mph and the temperature was 19 . The wind chill was well below zero (that’s zero Fahrenheit). We wore windproof layers for warmth. Malkolm wrapped long underwear pants around his face. It was 33 miles to Carrizozo, normally an easy day’s ride.
Malkolm said, “I’d like to get past Capitan today, so we can camp in the hills and listen for pygmy owls.”
“Is he serious?” I wondered. “It’s going to take all my energy just to get to Carrizozo.” I’d heard there was a motel there. I was flabbergasted at the suggestion we go 24 miles further than we needed to. We’d never hear an owl anyway; our tent is really noisy inside when the fly flaps in the wind. That polar wind! Sometimes it stopped me, sometimes it almost pushed me off the road. We walked up hills because it was too difficult to ride. I was miserable. My shoulders were hunched up and tight. I thought about hot tubs.
Malkolm said “I can’t feel my toes”. We stopped to give him the better footwear.
“Phewf,” I thought, “at least now he’ll want to stop in Carrizozo”.