August 7, 2022 on

Day 77 – Luck! (and some hard work)

Saturday October 22, 2022. I was so focused on getting everything packed and out the door to the train station that I forgot to look at my phone to see if the train was on time. It wasn’t. I got to the station and learned that it was an hour late which stretched to almost two. Not unexpected and I still had plenty of time in El Paso to meet my Warm Showers host as planned. I took off into the city to find some coffee and snacks for the eventual 7 hour trip. There was a big group of students going somewhere and about 40 folks overall and the station was pretty small and noisy. Could’ve used some more benches outside. I settled down outside the station on the concrete against the stucco wall and worked on the blog and some financial stuff.

Because Amtrak’s carry on bicycle policy only allows you to get on or off at stations that have a baggage handler AND at least a 20 minute stop, I had to get on in Tucson and off in El Paso. I had been talking/texting with my friends Sue and Paul Barsom all week trying to figure out a way to get the 160 miles from El Paso to their new (to me) home in Silver City without imposing on them but also keeping my riding to a sustainable 60 miles/day or less. Two 80 mile days were possible, but not really in the cards as the days are getting so short and there are long stretches with just nothing. The latest plan was that I would ride from El Paso to Las Cruces and then from Las Cruces towards Deming and Paul would pick me up on the way. That would cut a day off the trip and allow for more visiting vs. riding time.

When it came time to board the train, I followed Dana’s dad’s advice that it never hurts to ask, so I asked the conductor if I could get off in Lordsburg, as it was only 47 miles from the Barsom’s. The conductor’s answer was, sure *I* could get off in Lordsburg, but the bike will go to El Paso. “Do you want to do that?” “Not really,” I said dejectedly. So, essentially a big fat “No!” I walked the bike to the baggage car and hauled my panniers back to the coach car. The train was not as crowded as Wednesday’s and I found a double seat. At least I would have some room to be comfortable on the 7 hour trip.

A few minutes later, that conductor came through the car asking for the cyclist who wanted to get off in Lordsburg. I raised my hand and jumped out of my seat. He said that we could go to the baggage car and move the bike to this car’s baggage section and I could get off in Lordsburg. Elated, I walked with him to the baggage car where baggage agent was already retrieving my bike. I walk back and put the bike in the cavernous baggage area of the coach car that I described on Day 32. Papa Hobo was the only thing in that compartment.

Now that I was getting off in Lordsburg, the trip would be much shorter and I could ride to Paul instead of having him fetch me (Sue’s in Montana visiting friends until Tuesday). I fired off texts to Paul & Sue and to my El Paso Warm Showers host. I felt a little bad about changing plans on the warm showers host, but this was too good to pass up.

Paul had warned me that the ride was up 2,000′ from Lordsburg to Silver City and Ride With GPS confirmed that it wouldn’t be a ride in the park, but I was feeling fine and up for the challenge. As we approached Lordsburg, I gathered my bags and hustled down the stairs to the door, following the conductor who had just passed me. I had a few minutes with the conductor and thanked him profusely and complimented him and the other Amtrak conductors who have been so helpful to me on this trip. I wish they ran the railroad.

The stop in Lordsburg was literally a crossroads with lowered gates, flashing red lights, and clanging bells. There was a freight train parked next to the Amtrak train and another speeding freight on the other side of it. I reattached my panniers to Papa Hobo as I was fielding questions about my trip from a guy who had just left someone off to board the train. After he left, I was left totally alone as there was not soul visible in that part of Lordsburg. I went across the street to get away from the clanging while I mounted my phone and got the map ready. Since the route took me across the tracks that were blocked by the freight, I had to find an alternate route right off the bat. Fortunately, there was an underpass about 300 yards away. It was 1:50 and I had a good 4½ to 5 hour ride in front of me. The GPS said I would arrive at 6:06, but accounting for breaks and my hill climbing rate, I texted Paul to expect me between 6:30 and 7:00. He offered a pickup if I needed one.

I headed up US 70 and in 2 miles turned onto NM 90. It was the only turn until I got to Silver City and it was indeed a climb. The first climb was gentle at around 3-4% but that was for 18 miles. Also, in my rush to get on the road, I didn’t check my water bottles and found they were mostly empty. No problem I thought. I can just fill up at the next service station or knock on a door at get some water. Ha! Silly me. There were a couple of ranch gates where you couldn’t even see the house and no services at all. Fortunately, I had a lot of liquids on the train and it wasn’t very hot and if I felt I needed it, I could head down one of those long, long driveways.

NM 90 seems to just go on forever. I’d pick a high point to focus on and get there only to see another rise and another high point. All in all, it was 3817′ through 8 climbs over 46 miles. There is a screenshot of my stats for the ride in the gallery and all are correct except the stopped time as I didn’t save the route right away (VAM is Vertical Ascent per Mile). I only stopped for a few minutes during the ride and halfway through figured out that my phone was still on Pacific time when I started the ride, so the 6:06 pm estimate was actually 7:06 pm mountain time. I knew the sunset time in Silver City was 6:30, so I knew this ride was going to be finished in the dark. Also, I saw rain ahead and kept an eye on it as you can do out here in the west. It was moving away from me, but I still got a quite cold shower for about 5 minutes. It was enough rain to justify covering the phone but not enough to pull out rain gear. As I approached Silver City, I knew I was fine without seeking out water. It got fully dark at around 6:50 and I had all my lights on. While I could see lightning and rain ahead, I couldn’t hear any thunder so it was pretty far away. As I descended into Silver City, the roads were wet but thankfully the showers had passed. I finally got to the Barsom’s at around 7:20. Paul was waiting and offered me a shower, food and a beer. I gladly accepted but we changed the order to beer, shower, food. Paul took me to Little Toad Creek Brewery & Distillery where I had another couple of beers and Fish Tacos. They really hit the spot.

It’s been five years since I’ve seen Paul after he retired from PSU and left State College to join Sue in California. Catching up on that and many other subjets, I learned they decided it was time for both of them to retire and they settled on Silver City which Sue had first visited as an undergrad while hiking the Continental Divide. More on the house and environs later as I’ll be here for much of this week.


  1. Sarah Rito

    What a climb! I hope you opened your mouth for a refresh in the rain : )
    Way to go with the flexibility, Amtrak. Glad to hear the rules aren’t so set in stone that they can’t be reasonable when they have totally empty cars.

    • Paul Rito

      The conductors have all been very good and accommodating.

  2. Hugh Mose

    Hi, Paul,

    I finally had the chance to get caught up on your blog posts. All I can say is “Wow!” Reading your most recent posts, from northern California to the Bay Area to Los Angeles to Tuscon, it’s pretty clear that you are having the trip of a lifetime. And the climb from Lordsburg to Silver City is a route I have traveled – and as I recall it goes on forever! Keep posting – but hurry back to Happy Valley!


    • Paul Rito

      Hi Hugh, and forever is a lot longer on a bicycle! I’ll be back, but it’s pretty hard to wake up to what is now the high temp back in PA. And those lows! Brrrr.

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