Pat and Sari's Honeymoon Bike Ride

Friday, April 25, 2008
El Paso, TX to Las Cruces, NM
45 miles (2869 total miles)

We slipped into New Mexico today. We didn't get a Welcome to New Mexico sign, unfortunately; we saw a New Mexico State Line sign but we didn't go into New Mexico at that point. We skirted the edge of the state for a while and turned into it further north, but there was no clear indication of exactly when that happened. We hate when that happens - takes all the excitement out of entering a new state. But in any case, we're here in our 13th state, and so far it's been beautiful.

We started early this morning and had breakfast at a McDonald's a mile up the road since nothing else was open at that time. We headed out from breakfast at 6:40, proceeding north through El Paso. It quickly became apparent that the north end was the ritzier side of town - large homes (some nestled on the mountain side), walled-in subdivisions, high-end shopping centers. Our road was called Country Club Drive for one stretch, then it veered to the right following the New Mexico border and the grand houses slowly changed to more modest homes and finally farm fields. Many of the modest homes were lovely as well, though, most of them having a Southwest look of stuccoed walls and protruding beams. As we continued on into New Mexico, the Southwestern look intensified; several houses had lush gardens in front, an unusual number had several varieties of roses as well as other more native flowering plants. The farm fields were usually large, but not nearly on the scale of the Texas farms. There were still many pecan tree groves but they went on for acres instead of miles. We saw another group of glossy ibis in one of the more heavily flooded groves of pecan trees; a drier grove had flocks of doves pecking around in it. Another major crop seemed to be onions; we saw several large fields of them at various stages of growth. Other than that, all we saw growing was hay and alfalfa, with a couple of solitary cotton plants, seemingly left over from some earlier planting.

We crossed over the Rio Grande twice - it meanders along the border between Texas and New Mexico. We also passed by several irrigation ditches. They all seem to be bounded by much wider berms here than they were in Texas. The berms were tamped down on top and are obviously driven over regularly. We also saw a couple of cases where the pumps by the ditches were spewing water into them - the water looked refreshingly clear and cold. We passed through a few small towns today - Chamberino, La Mesa, San Miguel, and La Mesilla, which was right outside of Las Cruces. Chamberino and La Mesa didn't have much to offer, except for the ice cream we got at a grocery store in La Mesa. San Miguel was very pretty and had a historic Catholic Church in it. La Mesilla was even prettier, with several pretty stuccoed buildings in it, a median strip through town that had lovely plants and stones in it, and a lively air to it. We had lunch in a restaurant called Los Mariachis that had great Mexican food and beautiful Mexican serapes, musical instruments, and cute ornaments decorating it inside. The waitress also gave us a tip of a cheap but very nice motel nearby where we ended up spending the night.

The real excitement today was that we got another flat, but in the trailer tire this time - first time we've ever had to change that tire. It got a big nail stuck in it which made a very discernible hole, so we decided to patch it instead of replacing it. When we pumped the tire back up, it was still leaking though. Grumbling about the patch not doing its job, we took the tube out again and noticed that the nail had gone clear through the tube and punctured the other side! So we stuck a patch on that hole, too, and this time the tire pumped up just fine.

We had a short, easy day today - 45.4 miles in about 4.5 hours of bike time. It was a very slow ascent most of the day and our usual gusty head wind ( although we noticed the pecan trees did a great job of blocking the wind, which we really appreciated). We arrived at our motel at 2:20, shortly after our scrumptious lunch in La Mesilla. Tomorrow will be another short day, with more climb, though. We're trying to take it a little easy, working up to our big climb up to Emory Pass in a couple more days.

Houses half-way up the mountain in El Paso

The road going out of El Paso, packed with stores and other buildings

Some of the fancy houses in the outskirts of El Paso

The sign by the first crossing pf the Rio Grande

The Rio Grande, looking pretty grand

Looking south on the river

More luxurious subdivisions and houses along the edge of Texas

A driveway lined with palm trees

A large farm field and our early morning shadows

A grand farm building with solar panels on the left

Interesting stone work on the house, continued on the wall

There were several vineyards in this area

A tractor moving down the road

A horse farm

Pecan groves

An interesting building with a strange blue chimney and large grounds...

which turned out to be a polo field

A restaurant in La Mesa, which wasn't open yet

An unusual art center near La Mesa with several large pieces of art in its yard

A woman with a giant squirrel?

Other odd pieces

A wind mill?

An irrigation ditch with a drivable berm

Even the road signs are artistic, using New Mexico's state symbol

A large local high school...

with a remarkable mural

A wide irrigation ditch with a walking trail next to it

Distant mountains behind a farm

More Southwestern-style homes

A new house still in progress

A gorgeous tree

A yard filled with rose bushes

A lone cotton plant by the road

Freshly cut hay on one side...

Neatly baled hay on the other

A farm tractor working the furrows in an onion field

The historic Catholic church in San Miguel

A beautiful flowering bush overflows from someone's yard

Pecan trees shade the road

Close-up of pecans on the tree

A tractor plows between rows of pecan trees (to improve water absorption?)

Our second crossing of the Rio Grande

Looking south along the river

A pump pouring water into an irrigation ditch

Cool, clear water filling the ditch

Close-up of onions in a field

Hard to imagine who would want this many onions

Another view of distant mountains

Another pretty stuccoed house

Ibis feeding in a very wet pecan grove

Inside the Los Mariachis restaurant in La Mesilla

The local sheriff eats here so it must be good

A trio of Mexican characters

Pat outside the restaurant, well-fed and happy

Flowers in the median strip in La Mesilla

Other characteristic buildings in La Mesilla