I will never again disregard my wife’s advice regarding the handling of porcupine quills. - I Am the Weakest Link - CycleBlaze

June 2, 2016

I will never again disregard my wife’s advice regarding the handling of porcupine quills.

Day Two: Hachita, New Mexico to Ridge Park RV Park (13 miles South of Silver City, New Mexico)

We made an earlier, and much cooler, start this morning. We didn’t see or hear anyone as we left Hachita, including our loquacious friend from the night before.

The super-empty paved road continued to be quiet, and it was a very pleasant ride. The road was so empty we were able to ride side-by-side for extended periods. This allowed me to share with Joy some of the “interesting” questions and theories I formulate while riding my bicycle, such as: Why do jackrabbits have much longer ears than the rabbits we’re familiar with in the Midwest? And what would happen if Google introduced high-speed internet to Hachita? Would the availability of super-fast internet be enough to overcome the complete absence of other modern conveniences?

Not a lot happened on this part of the ride, although there was an incident in which I stopped by the side of the road for a minute, then looked down to see my shoe covered with hundreds of angry ants. Fortunately these apparently weren’t the kind of ants that bite or sting.

After about 20 miles we turned onto a dirt frontage road along I-10, and rode seven or eight miles to Separ, which consists of a single store selling souvenirs and a small selection of groceries. The people at the store were very friendly, and allowed us to refill our water bottles from the faucet, even though they sold expensive bottled water.

After consuming multiple snacks, including microwave burritos (surprisingly edible), Pringles potato chips, and ice cream, we rested for a while. I briefly engaged in conversation with a woman who was traveling with her dog, who Joy had to sharply warn not to eat her Pringles. (The dog, not the woman.)

As sometimes happens when I talk to random strangers, I learned I was talking to a possibly crazy person when the woman told me she was traveling across the country to “confront” an acquaintaince of hers in Missouri, for reasons she explained, but I didn’t understand.

It seemed like a good time to leave, so we turned under I-10 and onto the first real dirt road of the trip (90% of the Great Divide route is dirt or gravel, but the southernmost part of the route has quite a bit of the paved portions.)

Joy told me she had been looking forward to this road, considering it the “portal” to the Great Divide route, but it was initially so soft, sandy and unrideable (by me, anyway), that I started referring to it as the “Hellmouth”, not the “portal.” Joy, who is using flat pedals on this trip, and is a better bike handler than me in any case, didn’t have much trouble, and rode ahead, giving me some distance while I cursed (literally and profusely) the road surface.

After about a mile the surface became hard-packed dirt, and the next several hours were awesome, some of the best, most scenic and traffic-free miles I’ve ever done. It was hot, of course, but the clouds came out often enough, and there was even a little refreshing rain for a few minutes at a time. For most of the day we didn’t see or hear any signs of other humans. There were a couple of exceptions: A lightly loaded male cyclist riding all the way from Antelope Wells to Silver City in one day (125 miles!), and a couple of women who were examining the carcass of a porcupine alongside the dirt road. One of the women, who makes jewelry out of the quills, insisted on plucking, and giving me one of them. I felt obligated to accept the gift of the razor-sharp quill, despite the very dubious look on Joy’s face.

Eventually we got back on pavement for the last miles of the day, which ended at a nice little campground. Unfortunately I had become “hangry” by this point, somehow having failed to eat even as much as I do on a day when I’m at home at working at my desk. My mental processes dulled, I jabbed my finger with the needle-like porcupine quill that I had stored in my handlebar bag, and resolved that I would never again disregard my wife’s advice regarding the handling of porcupine quills.

Inside the Hachita community center.
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The large community center building was once a mercantile business.
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Map of the Continental Divide Trail, which roughly follows the same route, from the Mexican border to Canada, as the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail that we’re riding.
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Sadly realizing that we have a long way to go.
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Downtown Hachita.
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More of downtown Hachita.
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No cellphone signal in Hachita, and no working phone booth either.
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First of the 32 crossings of the Continental Divide on the route.
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Yucca. Like everything else in the desert, they are pointy.
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At the historic trading post of Separ, which, despite being prominently featured on our cycling maps, is just a store, not a town. The skeleton in the car is wearing a shirt labeled “New Mexico: It’s a Dry Heat”
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On the first real dirt road of the trip. I’m happy after escaping the initial soft, sandy, almost unrideable segment of the road.
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A jackrabbit. Why are their ears so long, anyway?
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Bill ShaneyfeltIn Mammalogy class, they said the large ears give them more surface area to radiate excess body heat.

Ok, I just google searced it, and I remembered my 1968 college course details correctly!

https://asknature.org/strategy/large-ears-used-to-cool-off/

----->Bill
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1 year ago
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The first vegetation in about 20 miles that was tall enough to cast a shade.
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A dead porcupine. The first porcupine, alive or dead, I’ve ever seen. I can confirm that the quills are very, very pointy and sharp.
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Awesome, awesome riding.
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Today's ride: 64 miles (103 km)
Total: 110 miles (177 km)

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