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January 14th 2009
Published: January 14th 2009
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Well. Here we are in Hitchcock, Texas and I can't lie and say we're not in need of a little encouragement. Facing snow, thumb-tack like thorns that could be more accurately described as daggers, frigid winds, sub-zero temperatures and miles and miles of nothingness in New Mexico, we made the decision to bypass part of Texas by hopping on the Amtrak in El Paso and taking it to Houston. Unfortunately, "hopping on the Amtrak" proved to be a little more difficult that was hoped.

But I'll backtrack a bit, to where our troubles really began. Last update we had just cycled a marvelous 76 miles, over spectacular landscapes and in beautiful weather with a excellent tailwind. We woke up the next morning, cycled about 4 miles, and got 4 flat tires all at once and spent the rest of the day plucking thorns out of our tires with tweezers, repairing the tubes we could, and making a trip to the local Walmart (this is admitted only with a great deal of shame) to pick up some extra tubes and patches, as there were no other options. Gallant and undefeated were we, as we stuck up our thumbs and got a ride into Lordsburg, New Mexico from a nice couple out for a Sunday drive. We even had some enthusiasm left when we found there was only one RV park in town and it was really just an unmanned parking lot behind a laundromat. I'd even say we kept our wits about us when we ran over more thorns, got two more flat tires, checked into a Budget Inn where none of the phones worked, and the man at the front desk could only say "What do you expect, it is only thirty dolla" to our every request. You should have seen his look of rage when we asked if there was continental breakfast. Then we wanted a styrofoam cup. Then we wanted a phone that worked. (we didn't make any friends, but he eventually let us use his cell phone). We woke up in the morning to snow cover as far as the eye could see - and in our optimistic eyes, this was EXCITING! We hadn't had snow before!

I can't pinpoint exactly when, but somewhere in there we got miserable. We cycled out on to the Interstate Freeway - look at your maps, it is literally the ONLY road option across the southern tier of New Mexico unless you want to cycle the Mexican border, which we didn't. And it was COLD. Not oooh it's a tad chilly cold, or better put our windbreakers on cold, or even maybe I need my magic mittens cold, but put-on-everything-I-have-with-me cold. We had headbands and bandanas over our faces, as many pairs of socks on as our shoes would allow, our pyjamas on under our cycling clothes, extra random garments tucked under our chins, and all of our sweaters on. We decided to hitch-hike, deciding that if any old weird-o offered us a ride to Timbucktoo, we'd gladly hop in, no questions asked. And an old weirdo did eventually stop and offer us a ride to El Paso, a good 200 miles away and we did glady jump in, no questions asked. The ride was interesting, in his words - he did "environmental work" for the copper mining industry to "get the EPA off their asses." He also smoked a lot and listened to Rush Limbaugh rantings on the radio, and we could only handle so many hours of mindless propoganda on climate change and black presidents. He let us off in Las Cruces, and he will never know that he gave a ride to two vegetarian, liberal minded, environmentalists, as I'm quite sure he might have dropped us off in a different fashion had this come up in conversation...

So, we sat in the ditch and decided we needed out of this firgid hinterland. We cycled into town, went to the local truck-stop, and used the payphones to get all the information we needed. Then we checked into another Budget Inn and watched more Law and Order, cursing the cold weather, the lack of campgrounds, the RV park no-tent policies, the conservative rantings, etc.

Oh, and did I mention that we were both sick with awful, awful colds? So, every five minutes or so, we stopped to blow our noses, sneeze, cough, or complain.

And off we headed to El Paso. I'm getting tired of relaying our misery, so I'll just provide an overview. We had caramel pecan popcorn for lunch (pecan farms abound in the Las Cruces area) and found two abandoned kittens in the ditch along the interstate and eventually had animal control come pick them up (they sent two trucks, with their police-type lights on!) and take them to the humane society (the kittens weren't too fond of our original idea to to put them in our handlebar bags). We got more flat tires, plucked out more thorns, stayed in another motel, became more depressed, stayed sick, got even colder, etc. The whole thing culminated with us crawling along a narrow thorn and bush covered area sandwhiched between the freeway and the Mexican borded (think: razor wire fences) to the train station, where we gladly boxed up our bikes and didn't feel the least bit concerned about our decision. Needless to say, we got more flat tires from the crawling ordeal.

So we were in Houston, after a 20 hour train ride with surprisingly comfortable sleeping arrangements, vegan burgers for sale, and lots of scenery to reassure us we weren't missin' much! Houston met our expecations with temperature - when we arrived at 5am, we didn't even need our jackets. And when we left about three hours later, after re-assembling our bikes and fixing three flats, the temperatures were amazing. To our surprise, the city was pretty nifty too. Aside from the odd George Bush statue, it was a pretty trendy city, with interesting architecture and all that. We treated ourselves to Subway for breakfast, and were not even bothered when a girl about our age, toting a cell phone and wearing fairly fashionable clothes asked us for money because she was hungry. Only minorly annoyed were we when she asked the same thing again (Seriously lady - I've been wearing the same clothes for four months straight - do I look like I'm rolling in it?). We were, however, a bit miffed when she gave up looking for handouts, bought herself a meat supreme, or some other flesh filled sandwhich, and then came over and asked us for money for the bus. ?!??!

Anyway. Houston was great. We stayed a reasonably priced RV park, saw our first cockroach, and went to NASA, spending the whole day at Space Centre Houston.

Then we cycled GALVESTON (if I knew how to make this into come sort of creepy, Halloween-type, dripping blood sort of font, it would be extremely appropriate), where our New Mexico depression resurfaced, but with vengence and more enthusiasm. It started off fine. We cycled to Tiki Island, where I got another flat tire (from road debris this time, as we were on the interstate again). Two nice Texans picked up up (they were "cuzzns" and couldn't believe we "drove dem bikes all da way from Canda!") and dropped us off at Subway, where we treated ourselves to our first veggie patty sub we've seen the whole trip. Things were looking good. We fixed the flats and started our daily routine. Go to the nearest gas station, get a phone book, call every RV park lsited and ask if they take tents. The gas station attendants were really rude and would let us take the phone book to the phone, about three metres away. Fine. A man came and offered us his cell phone and then started calling random numbers he thought might be RV parks (I think he called Ray's Pest Control), then told us that all of the RV parks were destroyed in Hurricane Ike. He definely fell into the category of trying to help, but really just annoying us. He was right about the hurricane though, the damage in the area is intense. Somehow, his (James) "helping us" turned into him driving all over town looking for a place for us to sleep (we just couldn't stop him, he was on a roll), and he eventually led us to the 'shrimp docks' where there was a parking lot where apparently a Vietnamese shrimp fisherman's wife had said we could stay, albeit begrudgingly. Anyway, it's a long story and it turns out that this man is INSANE. Friendly conversation with a pleasant looking man quickly turned into carefully responding to madman conspiracy theories while he twitched and continuously talked about how the "police won't bother you, just don't let them see you man, I'm sure it will be fine, nah they won't bother you, it's just all the crack-cocaine around here, but nah they shouldn't bother you." At this point, we reeeally wanted the police to come "bother us". After he left, we had a quick discussion - Me: "Are we just being over-sensitive and this will be okay?" Mike: "If we stay here we're going to be made into canned tuna." In hindsight, we can't even believe we stayed for more than five minutes. It was CREEPY. So we stayed in another hotel - this took a lot of effort. They were all closed from hurricane damage, had very sketchy owners, didn't take credit card, didn't answer their buzzers, or just ignored us. Another motel, more feeling of defeat. This motel, however boasted several noteworthy features. The phone didn't work, the TV didn't work, and the lights didn't work. yay.....

I could sum up the next day with a few choice words, but I'll settle for these: Mental Breakdown. We had no groceries and had to take a ferry to get off the island to head east. The hurricane absolutely wiped out everything for miles and miles and miles and miles. Boats on the highway, sofas in the ditch, garbage everywhere, flattened hosues, etc. It was very drastic. And it also meant we had no way to get food or a place to sleep, plus we had an absolutely brutal headwind. We had no choice but to turn back and go back to Galveston, where we got another motel, another ordeal. People at motels seem to hate us. Either they barely wake up from napping on the couch to tell us to leave, walk away while telling us the price, don't answer us at all, or are just generally grumpy. We were jumping off the walls when we had a friendly woman quote us a reasonable price. She even promised us lights that worked. AND we found a grocery store!! So that was all good.

We woke up in the morning to more brutal headwinds, and realized that our amazing speed of 6 miles per hour, there was no way we'd make the next non-destroyed town to the east. Back where we came from, up north towards Houston to take the long way (but at least more populated).

The wind was INSANE.
Our spirits are low.
We made it to Hitchcock.
My wallet was stolen.
Here we are.

We're staying at the Lazy Days RV Park for a few days to think things over. They're gauging us, at 20 USD per night for a patch of grass between the laundry and the playground, with no showers, but whatever. We've bought some used books at the library and are going to just stay put for a while.



14th January 2009

Well ladies, things sound like they are really sucking at the moment and I'm sorry to hear it. Usually your posts are filled with teeny tidbits of wisdom and make me want to hit the road (not on bikes though, seriously, not my thing), but this one seems sad. Just look at this way guys, things have got to GET BETTER....... i knocked on wood right after that, just to be safe. Good luck guys! P.S. So is the plan to go to the Bahamas? P.P.S Matlock is way better hotel TV than Law and Order
16th January 2009

Keep 'er goin'
Hey you two. Things are sounding pretty rough, and we're pretty sad to hear things aren't going as well as you'd like. Here's hoping the tailwind starts up and the weather stays good! Too bad I must say that you're stuck in Texas, but I'm sure if you tried hard enough there could be even worse places to be stuck. Stay safe, and hope those colds go away! Sean, Laura, and Ben

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