October 13, 2012
Christof woke up this morning with the idea of returning our rental car in Las Cruces, New Mexico, thus avoiding hours spent going back and forth over the same territory, first driving backwards to the airport in El Paso, and then retracing the same route again by bicycle through heavy urban traffic.A large sign welcomes us to New Mexico, the Land Of Enchantment. There are mountains on all sides, the air is crisp, the sky is blue and we are completely enchanted! It’s cold – in the 50’s – as we ride off. We feel joyful to be back on our bicycles again, a welcome contrast to the passive life of sitting in a car. Driving long distance is boring. Only the sense of sight is involved in watching the world glide past the car windows. It’s like watching TV in an air- conditioned room.
On a bike you feel the temperature, the wind rushes through your hair and makes your eyes tear, bringing the scent of far away places close. Your skin absorbs the humidity, soaks up the rain, basks in the warmth of the sunshine, or shrivels in the intense desert heat. You hear the tires of cars on the road – the sound the motor makes tells you without looking around – what type of driver is at the wheel, the way the dogs bark lets you know – if they are bored or mean and dangerous. The crickets chirping tells of endings, the waning of the day and the year. Birdsong is Nature’s alarm clock, beginning before both sunrise and sunset. You inhale the scents of the landscapes you traverse: dry, dusty plains, freshly plowed fields, newly mowed hay, orchards of ripening fruit, wet roads and hot, dry ones with melting, sticky tar. All this and much more would escape us if we traveled sealed up inside a car.
Today we ride through cotton and chili fields. In the pecan groves in the basin of a wide valley between two high mountain ranges, the trees stand deep in water flooded by the irrigation system. Warning signs are tacked onto their stems:
Pecan thieves will be prosecuted.
Do the threats work?
We stop for the evening long before we are tired. The distances here are so vast, stops have to be calculated according to campground availability.
A relaxed afternoon at the Leasburg Dam State Park in the middle of the desert. Each camp site has an adobe house from which I see a group of chattering quail scurrying up the ravine, and road runners racing up the hillside.