Journey: Canyon, TX to Albuquerque, NM
Number of times I gave the finger: None. Today was all hugs and puppies and candy.
Cups of coffee: 2 cups with my lovely Airbnb host and 1 latte from Palace Coffee Company, the warmest coffee shop I’ve ever visited.
Personal growth moment: Eating salmon out of a can at a gas station. Let’s do that again never.
Morning dawned warm and bright in Canyon, TX, which was great news for my plans to do a 4-hour ride into Palo Duro Canyon. Hooray! Sunshine! The weather app (WHICH I CHECKED, YES, I DID) said it was going to get cooler and windy in the afternoon, so I dressed accordingly and set out on my bike.
Admittedly, it was very windy. But with the sun shining, I warmed up quickly and stripped off my gloves and headband. Things seemed to be going well. Thirty minutes in, I started down the road to the canyon and the crosswind was aggressive, but it was cute to see tumbleweeds ripping across the road and I thought, “Gosh! This is an adventure!”
Nearly 10 miles later, I’d reached the canyon area. The sun had disappeared, swallowed by what I’d thought were distant mountains but what turned out to be a huge wall of incoming dark clouds. The temperature plummeted and the wind picked up to the point that I was almost knocked over several times. Normal people would have turned around and gone home but you do not read this blog because I am normal.
I entered the official state park and started the descent into the canyon. It was a winding, steep road that would probably have been fun if I wasn’t bordering on hypothermic. While it seemed like I was digging the hole deeper and deeper, my logic was that I’d warm up as soon as I turned around and started the climb back out. Besides, I could hardly feel the wind in the canyon, so clearly that meant it was sheltered.
When I turned around at the bottom, it was directly into a headwind. You know those moments in life, particularly on a ride, when you realize you are completely and totally screwed? I had that feeling right then. I’d have cried if I wasn’t afraid of making it sleet on my face. It didn’t help to see large paw prints in the loose red dirt near the road.
At that point, my only goal was to make it back to the tiny shop/cafe I’d seen on the way down, because at least there I could reflect on how badly I was fucked in the comfort of a heated building. It was nearly empty when I walked in, but then a few small groups trickled in, including a bunch of men in a sheriff’s truck. Everybody made comments like “rough day for a ride!” but I couldn’t bring myself to shriek YES! SAVE ME! Instead, I finished my cup of coffee and walked out to, I don’t know, ride off into the gloom and die?
It took about 8 seconds outside before I swallowed my pride, went back inside, and asked the sheriff for a ride to the top of the canyon. It seemed far too much to ask for a ride back to town, but I figured any time not spent riding would help. He was happy to oblige as soon as he finished some work, but then another man there walked up, said he was just camping and had nothing to do, and offered to drive me.
While he went to get his car, I chatted with the friendly sheriff (who turned out to be Chief Deputy Crump) and explained how I came to be riding a bike in the canyon that day. My story didn’t sound much better out loud – I do this for a job, I generally know how to check the weather, I am not a moron – but he was kind and shared interesting stories about his work. When my ride returned with his car, I heard Chief Deputy Crump quietly ask his partner to run the guy’s tags. They didn’t tell me they were doing it, but I was so touched by their concern for my safety.
Since they didn’t scream NO DON’T GO! when I walked out with the guy, I figured the news wasn’t bad. Honestly, I was anxious getting into the car with a stranger when I had no cell service and was armed only with Clif bars, but it seemed better to risk the possibility of being murdered over the certainty of hypothermia. When I finally had service again, I checked the weather to see that it had dropped from 52 degrees to 28 degrees with a wind chill of 14 degrees. I was wearing shorts and knee warmers. There was no way that could have ended well.
David (my good samaritan) insisted in not only driving me to the top of the canyon, but also the 15+ miles back to the house. We chatted along the way about how he is traveling around the country living out of an RV and when we arrived at my house, he helped unload the bike and went on his way. My host was waiting in the doorway – she had contacted me during the ride to see if I was okay due to the extreme weather shift, offered to come get me, and was worried about my safety in accepting a ride with an unknown man.
Between the two of them and the kind chief deputy, I was overwhelmed. Nobody had to help me or be concerned about my well-being; these people didn’t know me at all and I wasn’t their problem. But they went out of their way to look out for me and for that I am still so grateful. This trip has been an amazing adventure and I’ve seen and done so many things, but this – getting to see how strangers stepped in to help another person in trouble – this was the best thing yet.
The ride started out with some really exciting terrain.
I got to spend some quality time with a tumbleweed, which I’ve secretly always longed to do.
This was the last time I saw the sun on the ride.
And here is Palo Duro Canyon, that place where I would be a popsicle were it not for the kindness of strangers.
Palace Coffee Company, which offered both great coffee, friendly service, AND free stickers!
Apparently “The Land of Breaking Bad” or “The Home of Great Meth” did not make the cut as a state slogan.
The sign said “Dead End” so of course I drove on, parked, and got out of the car. This sort of thing always ends well.
What, you don’t rock climb alongside the highway in socks and sandals?
New Mexico is stunning – wide open plains, mountains, red rocks everywhere. It was breathtaking (which may have actually been a result of the intense windchill).
The face of a very cold person who is thrilled to be doing something stupid (apparently the theme of the day).