It started out well enough. I was prepared with two different routes that I got off the guy at the bike shop. While we have been here, I dropped my bike at Atom Bicycles, and got the deluxe tune up with new chain, tire reinforcers, that go inside the tire to prevent flats from the goat head thorns in New Mexico and Arizona, and a full cleaning and greasing of everything. Anyhow, back to the trip across El Paso. Traffic was absolutely no problem. The problem was getting around the mountains that pop up and split the town in half. The problem was the desert outskirts of town that have no roads through them. The problem was the crazy feeder roads that run parallel to major roads, going the exact same direction, but with different names and not enough signage for a stranger to really know what road is which. There is one easy way through town, but there are no shoulders, bike lanes, and traffic is outta control, according to everyone who should know.
So, I didn't take the easy way through town, which is Texas route 20. I tried the more complex, less traveled route. I made it, but I could not reproduce my path of travel if I had to. Thank God for the friendly people of El Paso who helped me every time I stopped to ask. I think the same things happen to people who are trying to find there way around Pittsburgh, with all the hills, tunnels, rivers, and hollows. Pittsburgh and El Paso are two towns that are NOT laid out in square grids, because of the geography, but the citizens helped me, with the right information every time. ( I don't know if that would happen in Pittsburgh.). I also complicated matters, because I went off the path while I investigated the University of Texas-El Paso. I checked out the Sun Bowl, which is the football stadium that I have seen on TV many times, and then I found the separate track stadium, which I had to see. When I was running in college, UTEP, was winning national championships more often than not, so I had to see the track.
Anyhow, it took me forever to get through town. A majority of what I thought was El Paso, is actually Juarez, Mexico. The Rio Grande runs right through the middle of town, and that is the border. The Spanish influence is huge here. There were more signs and businesses that were written in Spanish than English. ( I wonder if there are English signs in Juarez? ) when I got through east El Paso, I either had to go into the heart of the downtown, or take a road called Scenic Highway, which goes up a mountain that overlooks both cities. I chose to do the mountain route, but I missed the easy way because of poor signage. A person near downtown told me a way to get up the side of the mountain, and back onto Scenic Highway. Crazy, it was called Wheeling Street, which is the name of my hometown in West Virginia. I couldn't pass that up, so I found Wheeling Street, but it was so steep, there was no way I could pedal straight up. I did the old serpentine trick, side to side, and made it to the top, but not without sucking some serious wind in the altitude that I'm in. Scenery Drive was most definitely worth it though. Absolutely beautiful. Looking out over two countries, the (dry) Rio Grande, and the mountains of Mexico off in the distance. The road was quite steep, twisty and turny, with several places to stop and look over. That's how I discovered UTEP, and made my decision to explore.
Once I went down the west side of the mountain, and checked out UTEP, I had to go north about 5-7 miles, to find the one road that went west across a desert area, then climb a pretty serious hill out of the Rio Grande valley. I entered New Mexico, before I had to go south 5-7 miles to find NM rt. 9. As the crow flies, it was probably a few miles, but I pedaled over ten miles, because of the desert cliffs. On that loop, still in El Paso, I met a guy named Phil, who was pedaling from LA to Florida. He was forty years old, and just up and quit his job, to live a little, as he said. We compared notes, and talked for quite a while. He helped me find my way around the desert cliffs into New Mexico, and I tried to give him advise on getting through El Paso.
Once I got onto NM rt. 9, it was a straight shot through some pretty boring desert, parallel to the Mexico border, towards Columbus, New Mexico. The only excitement was the border patrol, who often blew by me at about 80 mph. I didn't know where they were going, or where they came from, nor did I see anyone sprinting across the border and hiding behind the yucca bushes. I had been riding on this road for about 20 miles into a growing headwind when Pam caught up to me. I was about 40 miles from Columbus ( further than I thought), and it was almost five o clock, so I called it a day, and we will pick up from that spot on our next travel day. We rode back to the campground in El Paso, showered, and had a great meal at Olive Garden.
|Wheeling Street road climb to get to Scenery Drive|
|Scenery Drive in El Paso|
|Looking down at UTEP's campus|
|El Paso in the foreground and Juarez, Mexico in the background|
|UTEP track stadium|
|UTEP track stadium|
|UTEP football stadium - the Sun Bowl|