Before leaving New Mexico we had a “rest” day. We took a side trip which involved cycling 77 miles. We rode to some hills with red soil. We walked through arroyos lush with mesquite, agave, and bushy grasses. They reminded me of miniature Grand Canyons. Mesquite trees grow on the arroyo rims, their roots growing over the edge. We were looking for long eared owls, and we found them, sitting on those roots. They were so well camouflaged that I thought the owls and mesquite must have evolved together. The owls’ plumage matched the texture and colour of the roots. They sat still, but followed us with their big yellow eyes.
Cycling south east from Carlsbad into Texas, we entered oil country. Oil pumps – known as “Grasshoppers” but we are calling them “Mosquitoes” – dot the countryside. “Dot” may be the wrong verb. In half an hour, I counted 61 “Mosquitoes”, while Malkolm counted 10 birds. The road was lined by barbed wire fences. Every side road was guarded by a closed gate. It was uninviting to cyclists looking for a place to spend the night. Signs warned “Poison gas may be present”. I learned what sour gas smells like.
Close to dusk we found a dried mud hollow in which to set up our tents. Before going to bed, I shone a flashlight around our kitchen. I saw movement and shone my light on a rat, a large Norway rat. The rat stared back at me, insolently. There were no trees in which to suspend our food, so we took it in to our tents. (Yeah, yeah , I’m a northerner, I know it is wrong to bring food into your tent. But bears are not a concern here).During the night, something chewed right through the netting of our tent to get our bananas. I never have liked rats.
We really notice the short hours of daylight. We get up before dawn in order to cover lots of distance. Approaching the Rio Grande, the land south of us was desert scrub, grayish green. Blue misty mountains in the distance were in Mexico. The land undulated. Those undulations were canyons. For a whole day, we rode down a canyon and up the other side. The road was chip sealed , a little rough. We cycled 83 miles. My legs got really tired. I knew I was really beat when the last 4 miles were downhill and I thought they were difficult.
Yesterday, in Del Rio, I had my first close call with a car which almost side swiped me. I was pulling into the left hand turning lane on a deserted city street. The car pulled out of some hidden driveway. I don’t think she saw any of us. I was shaken up. Most of the drivers in Texas have been really polite. I meet a few impatient ones and it freaks me out. I will be glad to get back on a highway today.