11 April 2011. No sooner did I have my panniers removed from my bike and the rear wheel off—with everything strewn along the unused terminus of the I-10 frontage road—than this chipper voice came out of nowhere. “Hi, I’m Leo Schreven, and I’m walking across America in 100 days” (or something like that). I had been so focused on my first flat—and nervous about fixing it, as it had been many years since I’ve fixed a flat myself—that I didn’t notice him approaching.
My first thought was that someone must have pulled over on the interstate and come over to see if I needed a hand with the bike. I was disappointed that that wasn’t the case, but fascinated with this enthusiastic fellow. He’s a pastor and motivational speaker from Kettle Falls, Washington. He set out from Jacksonville Beach, Florida on February 9th and plans to complete his walk—on May 19th in Imperial Beach, California (on his 50th birthday!).
He’s walking 26 miles each day—typically taking seven hours to cover the distance. He’s carrying minimal supplies, but is supported by two RVs. (Why didn’t I think of that?) Along the way, he’s giving free motivational seminars, and he’s recording and posting daily 10-minute video blogs to teach health and wellness principles.
Within moments of arriving, he pulled out his iPhone and began interviewing me for his video blog, so I’ll likely show up in a day or two on his website. In my state of exhaustion (I had already biked about 50 miles, the last few uphill, with another five miles of climbing ahead of me), and concern about whether I could get my flat fixed, I don’t think I had much to say that was very profound, though I stammered out a few comments about BuildingGreen and efforts to create more environmentally responsible buildings.
And then he was gone, strolling briskly down the shoulder of I-10, happy as a lark. Those interested in learning more about Leo’s Walk Across America can check out www.GoAllPower.com/walk.
I’m glad to say that I seemed to get the flat fixed all right (though I’m just remembering that I have yet to attempt to find and repair the tube). It was a little complicated, because I have these strips of material between the tubes and the tire to reduce risk of punctures. In putting the new tube, I had to try to keep that strip where it belongs.
We’ll see how it does. In working on the tire I noticed how worn the tires are getting. Tomorrow, I think I’ll call the bike shop in Alpine, Texas—a few days from here—and have them order two new tires for me.
To back up a bit, I left Fabens, Texas this morning around 7:45. It was quite cool; I was glad to have my wool jersey over the biking shirt, and a yellow vest over that. I didn’t quite need my leggings, but was fairly cool until early afternoon.
I left without breakfast, planning to get something in the town of Tornillo, about eight miles away. The actual restaurant that used to be there has closed, but I found a small grocery store that had a few tables and serve some mediocre food. Their beef and bean burrito was all right; it went will with two chocolate milks. As I was getting onto my bike, a fellow getting into his pick-up asked where I was heading. Such long-distance travel seemed really foreign to him—let alone, doing it on a bike. When I asked about Tornillo, he said not much happens in the town; he’s lived here his whole life, so doesn’t have much to compare it to. He has his own welding business.
A little later, I passed a man tending to recently planted pecan trees (we were still in pecan country). I wanted to find out more about their propagation and irrigation. Unfortunately, he spoke no English, and I speak no Spanish. I persevered a bit, asking about the agua, but he literally knew no English words. We said goodbye and I headed off. I feel embarrassed not speaking Spanish around here!
I found the terrain I biked through pretty depressing. Virtually all the businesses along Route 20 had gone under. I could see many decomposing shells of old grocery stores, cafés and bars. I guess there just isn’t enough prosperity to support small operations. People must drive into El Paso for the WalMarts and Costcos; the deals are better and, hey what’s a sixty-mile round-trip when you’re in Texas? Perhaps $5/gallon gasoline would help bring back local stores!
Later, on I-10, where the Southern Tier route travels for some of this stretch, I found myself depressed by the thousands of long-haul trucks carrying our goods from one place to another. There’s just so much stuff we’re shipping so far, and we’re using so much energy to do so!
The 63 miles I pedaled today were far harder for me than yesterday’s 83 miles. Partly it was that I had a slight headwind, but it wasn’t a strong wind. I was just worn out right from the start. And my left knee had started hurting during the night and stayed sore all day. I may have been premature in declaring success with the glucosamine. I’ll maintain the ibuprofen-glucosamine cocktail flowing through my system!
Tomorrow, I’m planning a shorter day—only about 35 miles, to Van Horn. I’m hoping I recover enough for a much longer, harder day on Wednesday, with significant climbing (over 2,000 feet up into the Davis Mountains). I can’t get online right now to check the weather forecast for either tomorrow or Wednesday, but when I last checked, it didn’t look great, relative to wind. The Davis Mountains are the last real climb of the Southern Tier route; the pass reaches about 6,300 feet; I’m at about 4,600 feet right now.