Now hopefully I've managed to get the video up I spoke about in the last blog and you're more than aware I had a good bit of eye make up on. The next morning, I still have this eye make up on. Much to Nads' amusement I still have the eye make up on in the form of black eyeliner which makes me look like a bearded Eddie Izzard. To be fair, I quite like that comparison, especially given his penchant for multiple marathoning and general lunacy. The last time I had eyeliner on was to see Interpol in the great Glastonbury flood of 2005, where I emerged immaculate from my tent in black suit, shirt and tie with slicked hair and a brooding gaze, when everyone else looked like they'd been mud wrestling. I liked that too. I might start doing it more often...but I digress. After an hour of scrubbing (maybe 5 minutes, before I complained “My eyes are hurting!!”), I proclaimed that we needed to get on and we drove to the point where I was told about the road closure as a designated start point, which was slightly irritating as it meant wasting 5 perfectly good miles from yesterday, but now we were going to hug the Mexican border instead of heading further north. This meant leaving most signs of civilisation behind and this included, for my part, an absence of road. I'd chosen a different route to Nads to reach the first meeting point and two miles down this, the road ended in an abrupt manner. The local construction workers who whilst not queuing for their breakfast burritos and building this road seemed to find my questioning whether I could run further in that direction pretty amusing and told me to watch for coyotes and...Border Guards. I told them I could run pretty fast if I needed and their response indicated I might need to! Using honed man-skills and keeping the sun only burning the left side of my body, I was able to make my way across three miles of desert and scrub until I popped out under (of course) the barbed wire fence that lined Highway 9. The next mile marker down the road was 144 – this means 144 miles till the end of Highway 9 and, to all intents and purposes, New Mexico. I was intent on purposefully putting the hammer down and getting this done by the weekend.
My mind wanders a lot when I run, if I let it and with the roads being so quiet and the mountains of El Paso still over my shoulder, I thought a lot about Texas and how varied it had been. As George Harrison once said: “All things must pass” and I started to take in my new surroundings, which whilst not exactly a departure from West Texas, were pretty magical in their own right and really gave the feeling of the open road. As this was starting to sink in “it” made it's first appearance of the trip. “It” being “Born to Run”, that I'd purposefully not selected as I needed some other entity to decide the time was right. Now I know it was probably just my phone, but I do believe it was the God of Rock and Roll, Bruce Springsteen, who had said the time was right. Why was the time right? We were on Highway 9 and as soon as the song came on, so did the first sign telling me so come up on my right, above a STOP sign riddled with bullet dents. You may need to listen to they lyrics if you're not familiar and it wasn't THE Highway 9, but the tone for running more quickly thn I should had been set and continued until the end of the day where our camping spot was given the thumbs up by a friendly Border Guard officer that I didn't have to run from and who accepted my explanation for looking so fabulous in the eye department. So New Mexico here we go. We're sat in an RV, in the middle of nowhere, with not too much too do...one thing for it. Break out the DVD player, with only one thing we could be watching: Breaking Bad.
Start: Corner of County Road A017 and Industrial Road. Finish: Jct of Highway 9 and County Road A001. 36.22 miles
I felt like I was sightseeing today, maybe on a walk on the Yorkshire Moors, but just a bit faster. The previous night we'd had really strong winds and a distant thunderstorm that was just a little bit far away to be truly exciting or a photo-fest. This had woken us up a few times and it was still so blowy in the morning that I decided I'd wait until it was properly light until I got going in case it led to a vehicle-pedestrian malfunction (again, any excuse). It was still pretty cold and having neglected to bring any sort of running leggings I went for the double long sleeve top combo, with compression shorts and socks to minimise exposed skin. Fortunately, as I walk my first mile to get the legs used to moving again, it soon moved up and I ended up carrying a good bit of my clothes for the rest of the run. It stayed cloudy all day which led to some great photo opportunities. I'm building up an excellent library of open road shots and on this road, mile markers. 101, 100, 96… You may be guessing that I don't have a lot of other stimulation, but I'm not bored. I have my music and I spend a lot of my time just looking around at the panorama before me, as well as trying to work out which route we'll take when we get to Columbus, a town named after Chris himself that used to be a huge trading town, but had declined following the withdrawal of the train service. It's also famous for a raid by that cheeky bandito Pancho Villa where he came across the border, kicked up a hell of a fuss (a few people may have got killed) and legged it back to Mexico. This wasn't taken very lightly and a huge retaliation expedition set off to find him, but Pancho was an elusive sort and escaped to fight another day. We got to the town for lunch, but didn't see any places to eat immediately, so sandwiches it was. We did go to the supermarket and I picked up some Alaskan Amber Ale and some Kona Golden, making me possibly the only man in the world that day to get beers from the non-contiguous states whilst in New Mexico. We got some other stuff as well, like food. Columbus did have internet, but alas, only in an amount enough to make me frustrated at my Maps not working properly. After a three hour stress, I elected that we would stay south and go even further so, hen we reached the Arizona border, as it didn't inconvenience us much miles wise and meant we'd get to see more cool stuff. Who doesn't like cool stuff? It does mean we're staying slightly more off the grid, which is a double-edged sword, however. Heading out, I got some photo of the saloon which saw a lot of the Pancho action and also the old train station, which is now a museum, as well as a few quirky shops/installations as a few artists have moved to the area and will hopefully make Columbus famous for better reasons in the future. 12 miles down the road I found Nads and Jenny having dropped anchor, facing in the direction less likely to see us blown over by the gale that was already starting to blow. Special mention for an amazing dinner by Nads (They're all good, like, but this was ace.) of sausages, bacon, potatoes and sweetcorn all in a tomato sauce. Seriously guys, come and visit – it's like Jamie Oliver's 20 Minute Meals here!
Start: Jct of Highway 9 and County Road A001. Finish: Jct of Highway 9 and County Road A004. 36.14 miles
Something was banging all night in the wind as the Enterprise got buffeted and peppered with rain. I got up a few times to find what it was, to no avail and when I woke up, my head was banging and my sinuses felt a bit lousy. Back to bed for half an hour after some water and ibuprofen. I wasn't 100% when I got up, but I was good enough. More double layering was on the cards and after two 36 mile days, I wanted to go a bit further today. This wasn't hindered by the fact that the wind was firmly behind me and merrily pushing me through New Mexico, with a great temperature for quick running, so caution was required. It's not the worst problem to have and I certainly take it over getting slower and slower every run, but I've seen what over-exuberance can lead to already! There was literally very little to report apart from ongoing marvelling at the scenery and 26 miles were on the clock by lunch, where we were checked on by a suspicious Border Guard, which is fair enough I guess. It is his job!
After lunch, crossing into Grant County, I continued marvelling my way to a curious town called Hachita (Meaning “Little Hatchet”, which appeared to be on its way to becoming a true ghost town. Most buildings, including the church, saloon, store and gas station were closed and in disrepair and a lot of the houses were the same way, with many people living in RVs in the front yard There were a few people about, but I felt like I was intruding and didn't want to ask what it was like living there now. The place used to be a thriving community of around 800 people, serving time as a military outpost, then a smelter base but as the jobs moved, so did the railroad and the town was on borrowed time. I did see two cheery fellas riding a bike who must have been local and we both remarked on how pleasant a day it was. How British! On the way to meet Nads and finish up for the day I saw two curious bits of nature. Firstly, a 15-20cm millipede crossing the road, that of course needing rescuing from the road. I'd been told centipedes bite here and millipedes are fine so braved it with my hands, though as it eared round to have a look, I got all squeamish and dropped it unceremoniously in a bush. By this bush I saw a lone Scottish thistle in bloom – you're a long way from home wee man! That made two of us. Only one had a big bloody hill to climb, but again, it wasn't an inconvenience, it just meant I was getting more visual treats and I ran till sunset, to the 35 mile marker and a hilltop vantage point for the sun's early evening curtain call. Once again, very lucky.
Start: Jct of Highway 9 and County Road A004. Finish: Up a big hill 8 miles west of Hachita. 42.2 miles
We were expecting a delivery today. We had to pick it up in Lordsburg which wasn't on our route and needed a diversion. We planned to veer off course at Animas, 22 miles away. The tailwind had gone, but a gentle descent is never amiss. I drilled myself to get out and running early, as I wanted to be done by 1130. Grant County, where I started this morning sounds like a great setting for a John Wayne film, but Tarantino would set his Western in Hidalgo County, next up, I reckon. Nothing quirky and no appearances by Samuel L. Jackson had gone down by our first fuel stop, but almost immediately after starting again, I noted a few vehicles in a lay-by up the road, with people in day-glo and sports kit. Were they here for me? I was getting pretty excited about running with a group, actually on route, when I started to notice the odd bike wheel. Oh well, a few might ride alongside...hang on...they're all on bikes. Bubble burst. However, as one of the group rode towards me, redemption:
“Run Forrest, run!”
“Well you'd never guess...but...”
Soon the rest of the group had caught up and seemed genuinely blown away by the story, which was particularly touching as they were also on a 400 mile bike ride to raise money for the Rancho Feliz Guardian Warrior Charitable Foundation, who in a week's time will be providing food and blankets to 5000 people in need in a Mexican border town, Agua Prieta, confluent with the town of Douglas on the US side, where we heading to. Their motto is “View the past with the eye of gratefulness, the present with the eye of service and the future with the eye of responsibility”, which says it all. A good creed, indeed. The guys kindly offered to pay for a hotel room, which we explained we were good for, because we didn't want Jenny to think we didn't love her any more and then one of the peloton gave me $50, which I tried to refuse but he had none of it. I told them that Nads was up the road and she may be a safer recipient, by which time this had morphed into $100. She again tried to resist, as they were raising money for a great cause too, but such was their feelings towards my challenge they insisted. They were such a positive group, they'll achieve whatever they want to and I'd love if it you could check out their website www.ranchofeliz.com and see if you can help them at all. They helped me float all the way up to the Continental Divide at 4520ft – which separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean, from those that head to the Atlantic. Pretty cool, I thought (cue more cheesy photos) and onto Animas, bang on time. Animas is famous in these parts for having an al conquering high school football team which has the longest winning streak in history, stretching from 1984 to 1990. Go Panthers!
So then, onto our delivery. This delivery wasn't an aid package or fan mail (fat chance!), but a living and breathing Richard Beer, Royal Veterinary College Football Club legend and the funniest singer of Common People by Pulp you will ever witness. He'd arrived on the 12:00 from LA and seeing as we thought it was the 13:00 he was waiting for us in Lordsburg station, which in the UK, we would call a Bus Shelter. We set up camp in the local Mexican cafe (Following previous advice to get Mexican in NM) to catch up whilst I got my triple order in of tacos and burritos (finishing without a pause for breath). The lady who served us was from Animas and on inquiry, informed me that 1991 was a terrible year and since then, with the added demise of the local smelter, the town's population and also the crowds for the football are down from 20,000 to the few hundred that live there now, with there only being a six-a-side football team. She felt that it had reached its lowest ebb and wouldn't go the way of Hachita, with the amount of ranches in the area. The rise and fall of these towns even in the modern era fascinates me deeply and I hope she's right in this instance. She looked at me looking like she was hoping the same thing.
Despite a mammoth 10 hour flight and an overnight “sleeper” (used loosely) train, Ricardo was up for a run, as he'd done his training and wasn't going to miss his chance. An impressive 6.5 miles out of Animas ensued and he wasn't bent over gasping for air like I've seen him on the football pitch a few times. I saw an opportunity though. It was 8 miles to the end of Highway 9. I wasn't letting that slip and had a glorious, though tough (for a mostly downhill stretch) jaunt all the way to Rusty's RV Ranch and again, cracked it before sunset. Rusty's place is frequented by astronomers due to the night-time blackout policy and no other light pollution. As the moon had decided to spoil that party for the hardcore, it was pretty quiet and we had the HOT TUB to ourselves to observe the cosmos with those Hawaiian beers we'd picked up in Columbus. I do believe this is called winning.
Start: Up the big hill 8 miles of Hachita. Finish: Rusty's RV Ranch, Rodeo. 36.2 miles.
Total: 1474.75 miles