Back to the Homeland
I hurriedly got out of Aguilar, breaking camp in record time that morning. Less than an hour between opening my eyes and pedaling. That usually doesn't happen even when there's not a tent involved! I don't know if my eagerness to leave a crummy town played into it, but I bet it mostly has to do with warmer mornings. It's hard to get out of the sleeping bag and move quickly, or do anything really, when you're freezing your butt off.
A descent into Trinidad, a huge climb out of it. I hadn't realized it, but I was going to reach over 2,300 meters once again! I found a patience mode, even as I had to pedal up a hill in the heat, knowing that I wouldn't see another hill like this until Central America, and wouldn't reach this elevation again until South America. This would be the last great hill for a long while.
I tried going to the information center in Raton, but it was closed for the 4th of July. Maps were left outside, not that they were very good maps. They could've left the Wi-Fi password on the door. Or they could simply make it an open network.
I bumped into a delightful mother-daughter duo from Sherman, TX who promptly gave a donation and shared half their sandwich. Made my day! Thanks to Deanna and Paula! (I might've gotten one name wrong, and if so, sorry!)
Starting in southern Colorado, and continuing through New Mexico, nearly every convenience store has a sign aggressively telling people you may not use the bathroom unless you're a paying customer. I hate that. I don't see how having to pee makes me owe you something. I have to pee, and I'm gonna do it somewhere. I bet you'd prefer I use your bathroom rather than somewhere else.
Clayton was an ambitious goal, still 130 km away, and it was already past noon. With no guaranteed place to stay, it would be a lot easier to stop in a town in mid-afternoon. I settled on Des Moines (NM, not IA), 75 km short of Clayton. I could've made Clayton before dark, and maybe would've gotten to see fireworks in a bigger town. But I probably would've had to pay for a hotel room, too. And so I remained half a day behind schedule.
The good news was I got a great place to stay for the 4th of July. Des Moines, population 135, had a sizeable church where I could stay the night. And the pantry was loaded! I called my family, I ate beef stew, I drank lemonade. American enough to satisfy most, I'd say.
Riding to Dalhart was a joyously easy day, thanks to being entirely flat, a strong wind that was just barely coming over my right shoulder, and a slight downhill the whole way. Checking the profile later, I lost 900 meters in elevation without a single downhill! It will never be this good again.
At 9:00 AM, I was already in Clayton, 75 km down and halfway through the day. 9:00 AM!! 150 km would already be a good day, but if things stayed like this, was there any reason not to go farther? How far could I get?
Later in the day, the wind shifted so it was just barely in front of my right shoulder, and I slowed down. Some time after crossing the Texas border, I was reminded of something I'd forgotten about my home state: we don't always put a lot of effort into our road surfaces. The shoulder especially.
The traffic lanes on the highway were still good smooth asphalt, but the shoulder deteriorated to total crap, worse than any chip seal I rode on in Canada. I was tempted to take a lane, but thought better of it. I know the shoulder isn't even meant to be used for much of anything but emergency parking, but if they're going to make it this bad, why bother paving it at all? I spent an hour jealously looking only two meters to my left as I rode on a surface that was only a marginal improvement over the rumble strip.
After losing an hour to the time zone, I got to Dalhart at about 2:30 PM. Dumas, the next closest significant town, was another 60 km, and in a better direction with regards to the wind. It would be easily do-able, but it's much harder to find an impromptu lodging arrangement outside of business hours. I decided to stay in Dalhart and start looking for churches.
I was guided to a church in Dalhart where a couple parents and a lot of kids were holding a car wash and bake sale. That Texas hospitality shone through as soon as I pulled up on Valeria. Every single one, young and old, was happy to have me there, put me in a chair in the shade, and offered me pizza and the leftovers from the bake sale. Got to stay in the church overnight, Wi-Fi, shower, laundry, and a big comfy couch to sleep on. Thanks, every one-a y'all.