Thursday, February 28, 2013

Day 15 (Thurs, 28 Feb)

I rode from Artesia, NM to Hobbs, NM today.  I’ve definitely entered the Western edge of U.S. Oil country.  The ride was 80 miles, primarily Eastward and just slightly South.  The terrain was primarily flat with just a few hills and a total of 1,300 ft of climbing.  It was a sunny day (again!), starting out cold in Artesia (high 30s when I left at about 10a) and the Temps were in the 40s and low 50s throughout the rest of the day.  No wind in the morning and then a slight tailwind throughout the last half of the ride helped me into Hobbs.  The ride was on Hwy 82, then Hwy 529 and finally on Hwy 62/180 into Hobbs.

You’ll see and read more about this below, but this entire region of NM is clearly commercially driven by the oil industry.  I had expected that once I make it to TX, but hadn’t realized there is so much oil in Southeastern NM. 

Hobbs has a population of about 40,000 people and one of the most notable things I’ve read about the city is that Charles Lindbergh often landed hear and Amelia Earhart landed here in 1928 on the first transcontinental flight by a female (  Cool.

As long as I’m in the area, thought I’d read up a bit on how these oil wells work:  The wells I saw today (many 100s of them) were similar to that described in the Wikipedia article.  An electric engine creates a rotary motion, the walking beam turns that into a reciprocating vertical motion and then a set of pipes/valves create pressure to bring the oil/gas to the surface. 

Along the highways today, I saw all of the things you would expect around so many oil wells: 1) many 100s of white pick-up trucks driving all over the place (these appeared to be the primary workers servicing the wells), 2) oil trucks, 3) cement trucks, 4) and electrical utility lines everywhere (to drive the oil well motors).  Much more traffic than I had expected but it gave me plenty to look at and dodge around throughout the day.  Also, oil refineries and an electrical power station.

On to the pictures (I’m having to work harder now to find things worth taking pictures of!  Will keep working on increasing the creativity of this over the next few weeks – I’m guessing I’ll have lots of practice…).

Oil refinery in Artesia.

Cool wagon wheel type irrigation system - all iced up early this morning!

Interesting statue in front of a business just East of Artesia.  Must have been flowing water in the area at some point in the past - I didn't see any today, just dry river and creek beds - the "dry" theme of my trip continues!

Yes, oil wells.

Basically just showing that its still me on the bike (not much behind me to point out - people in Massachusetts would kill for the size of the yards folks have here - plenty of excess space).

Oh yeah, and it smelled like oil in the area - not the best of smells to ride in for 5 hrs...

This is an electrical power plant between Artesia and Hobbs - I bet its main use is to power all the electrical motors on the oil wells.  Lot's of energy that we use to harvest gas/oil to create more energy that we use.  Amazing when you think about it that we still can't generate electricity more economically than that direct from the ultimate source, our sun - through solar panels - probably some day but more innovation needed...

Ahhhh, Hobbs - made it!

Little out of sequence here, but this is the landscape about 30 miles west of Hobbs.

Updated map - I've now cycled more than 1,000 miles on the trip, as of today!

Short video of a working oil well.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Day 14 (Wed, 27 Feb)

I rode from Cloudcroft, NM to Artesia, NM today. The ride was 90 miles, nearly straight East – putting on some good miles heading to Texas.  I descended over 5,000 ft down from the mountain into Artesia.  I’m now at an elevation of about 3,400 ft.  It was a sunny day (again!), starting out quite cold in Cloudcroft (low 20s when I left at about 10a) and after the first two hours of descent, the Temps were in the 40s throughout the rest of the day.  A bit of a cross/head wind throughout the last half of the ride gave me some work getting into Artesia.

The entire ride was on Hwy 82, with very light traffic and very little human development along the entire ride – just a few cattle ranches and a few homes between Cloudcroft and Artesia.  Lot’s of clean, fresh air and time to enjoy the scenery!

I’ve now left the mountains behind and hit the western edges of the plains states.  It definitely was strange to look out onto the horizon and not see mountains - first time that’s happened during the trip.  The transition happened quite quickly from Mountains with plenty of evergreen trees/snow, to a couple of hrs of rolling hills with a few trees, to no trees at all.

I did see some wildlife today: a) I believe I saw what is called a Swift Fox run across the road ( ), b) a Golden Eagle ( ), c) red-tailed hawk ( ), and d) 7 Mule Deer ( ).  First time for each of those during the trip and a nice break from the typical domestic dogs coming out to greet me… 

No flat tires today!

On to the pictures:

Snow just East of Cloudcroft

Ski Cloudcroft (no skiers this early in the morning...)

Full Cycling cold-weather ninja gear for the first 2 hrs of the ride today!  For cyclists following this: face mask, lobster claw gloves, Pearl Izumi winter coat w/liner, shirt, baselayer shirt, two layers on legs, and on feet: 2 pair socks, shoe toe covers and full shoe covers - that was just about right for the 20's plus 20 mph wind going down the Mtn.

Wide, sweeping valleys on the East side of the Lincoln National Forest.

A little bit of local history.

Most of the river valley on this side of the mountain was quite flat; this was an exception where the river had cut steep sides into the mountain.

Appeared to be an old, abandoned cattle ranch/pen (or something similar - not my area of expertise!)

Looking back Northwest from Hwy 82 to the Sierra Blanca Peak area - this would be my last view of the mountains.  That's a good 40 miles away from where I took this picture.

Open plains - loads of it.

If you click on the 2 pictures below, hopefully you can see the 7 Mule Deer.  They saw me while they were near the Hwy, ran about 200 yds away from me and then for about 1/2 mile ran parallel with the Hwy in the direction I was headed - I got a little ways ahead of them so I could stop and take these pictures.

Apparently Artesia has a decent high school football team - they've won 27 state titles at their level - pretty good.  Landry Jones who just finished as Oklahoma's quarterback and is likely to go high in the NFL draft is from Artesia (

Lot's of horizon in this picture given the landscape.

Updated map - making progress.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Day 13 (Tues, 26 Feb)

Today may turn out to be one of my favorite rides for the entire trip!!  I rode from Alamogordo, NM to Cloudcroft, NM.  It was a beautiful sunny day, with just light winds and Temps in the 30s and 40s.  Cloudcroft is at 8,600 feet and is one of the highest elevation towns in the U.S. (,_NM ).  The ride was just 23 miles but had a climb of over 4,400 feet.  I pushed my legs a bit during the climb but not too much as: a) I had never ridden my bike at this high of an elevation before, so I wanted to evaluate how the heart/lungs/legs did without killing them (they did pretty good), and b) there were a ton of great pictures to be had along the way so I needed to do many quick stops to capture the local scenery.  I rode without a coat and so I kept most of the stops to <1 min, before the windchill started to kick in on legs/body.

A couple of cool meetings along the way.  Just before I started the climb in Alamogordo a local cyclist riding the highway in his pickup truck (with his dog) pulled over and we chatted for a good 20 minutes.  He does a lot of riding in these mountains and I learned a lot quickly from him.  There are many great mountain rides for cyclists in this area – I was happy to be able to do 1 of them, but after listening to his stories, I wished for more time to try out some of the others (maybe on another trip!).  Near the top of the climb as I was reading about some of the local history on National Forest signs, I met a couple from upstate New York who are doing a cross-country trip to numerous National Parks.  Sounds like a lot of fun (they made snow angels in the sand at White Sand National Monument this morning – something I missed out on given the 30+ mph winds when I visited…).

Also, for the record, I discovered this morning that I had another flat tire (#4 for the trip).  This was another slow leak from a very small thorn, in my front tire (which was a Gatorskin tire that is supposed to be resistant to such punctures – it was a nasty little thorn…).  At least the tire was tough enough to make it through the ride yesterday – much easier to change a flat in a hotel room, than along a Highway.

Adding to a list I started last week, here are two more categories plus an update on one other:
1.     My favorite question at motels (I’ve been asked this twice now – same motel chain – seems to be standard procedure - they seem to be bothered if you don’t fill in their entire sign-in card): “Can you fill out the make/model and license plate of your car?”  (As I’m standing at the front desk with my bike…)
2.     Best candy bar to have on a bike ride: Snickers Almond (OBTW: my bike computer tells me that I’ve burned about 40,000 calories – that is 173.9 Snickers bars that I could have eaten!)
3.     Rattlesnakes seen (dead or alive): still zero; still looking…

A couple of totals-to-date on the ride from my Garmin bike computer: a) 864 total miles to-date (about 33% of the projected total is now complete), and b) 29,319 feet of vertical elevation climbed (like going from sea level to the top of Mt Everest!).

On to the pictures below!  I hope you enjoy them.

Follow the signs to Cloudcroft OR just keep going up hill - either plan will get you to the right place!

Looking back on the White Sands.

Entering Lincoln National Forest - at this point in the ride that seemed like a misnomer given that there were not (yet) any trees in sight...

I met a father and his son who were on their way from Carlsbad to Las Cruces for a Dental Appointment - long trip for them.  They were nice enough to take this picture for me.

Check out this information - It explains the relationship between the rocks in the mountains (which were once all under a sea) and the White Sands 2,000 ft below.  Keep in mind that this is at about 6,000 ft.  Cool stuff.

Cool and/or funky panorama pictures from my iPhone.

That's a house up there - what a view back down into the valley they must have!

There are lot's of local stores along the route with wood carvings and other local products.

The route up Hwy 82 followed a small mountain river that in some places was a very small valley that the Hwy runs through and in other places had very nice fields such as this one.  First real signs of snow on the ride.

Snow becoming more prevalent...

Aha, trees (National Forest...) with some logging and associated trucks (in the distance in this pict).

If you can magnify these signs hopefully you can read a bit of history on the area - Cloudcroft, the road, railroad and towns in the valley I rode up through were all developed a little over 100 yrs ago, for logs/railroad ties that were used to build the first railroads in southern New Mexico.

Old railroad bridge used for logging in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The couple from upstate NY were kind enough to snap this picture (you can still see White Sands in the distance - this is almost 4,000 ft above them and a good 25-30 miles away).

I took 3 pictures of this sign and somehow messed up all 3 of them - this one, believe it or not, was the best (least cut off)...


Outdoor skating rink.

My motel surrounded by piles of snow.

The updated map.