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Day 4 - Douglas AZ to Lordsburg NM - 100 mi / 160 km

This is going to be my longest ride ever - my very first 100 mile cycling day.  There doesn't seem to be anything between Douglas and Lordsburg in the way of motels.

The day starts with a mild climb with a west breeze on my back. After the first set of hills, the highway heads north and the wind follows suit - I am pushed along and I'm grateful for the help. No people, but a sprinkling of cattle, some of which would look up to watch me pass, then go back to the business tearing at the dry grass.  A couple moo at me, and I moo back.

I have mountains on both sides of me. The sun climbs up from the east, sits high in the sky behind me at mid-day and then started its descent to the West.  When I get to Rodeo I am only halfway there. I buy more water at the local store, pack the big bottle into my pannier and continue on.

It doesn't look like I am going to get to Lordsburg before sunset.  A green Border patrol car appears in the distance and I wave it down. The officer says I'm still 40 miles from Lordsburg and also informs me that the last stretch of the trip on Interstate Hwy 10 is not open to bicycles.

This is new information for me. I ask him how I'm going to manage to get to Lordsburg.  He indicates that, right after crossing Hwy 10, there are train tracks that have a dirt service road running beside it that will turn into the old paved highway now replaced by the Interstate. I thank him and we part ways.

It's time for a drink. I open my pannier and pull out my big water bottle. It's empty. Not only had it cracked and drained, but all the clothes stored below the bottle are soaked. 

I pull out a T-shirt, hold it above my head and wring water into my mouth. I don't know if I have enough water now to make it to Lordsburg.

Then there is a huge buzzing sound ahead of me that grows louder - a great black cloud of flying insects flows across the highway and then are gone.  If I had not stopped for my break, I would have ended up in their path.

I labour on. The ground rises up before me and off in the distance I can see tiny trucks and cars on Interstate 10.  Good news when I reach the intersection of my highway 80 and Interstate 10 - a gas station with a convenience store. I'm still lugging around the weight of my spilled water in my wet clothes, but I am now replenished.

As indicated by the border patrol officer, there is the railway and the parallel dirt road, on the other side of a fence. So I swing my bike over the wire and climb onto private property.

The sun is going down and it's slow going on the rutted dirt. I continue to look for the abandoned paved road to my right but it doesn't appear. I push on. Sunset.

The train tracks diverge away from the highway. It's now dark and I have my feeble headlight on.  Far off to my right I can see the pinprick headlights of interstate traffic. I lift my bike up into the air and scan around with my headlight - No paved road within the reach of the lightbeam.

Well, I know that the railway will curve back towards Lordsburg, so I will just tough it out on the dirt road - better than wandering in the desert brush.

My dirt road ends at a fence, with desert bush beyond it and a set of yellow sodium lights far in the distance. I lift my bike over this next fence and I'm now pushing my bike through the crumbly dirt and bushes in a very dark night.

It's an interesting sensation. I'm out in the desert and the sky is filled with stars. It's very beautiful and I try not to think of what creepy crawly things might be underfoot.  I'm hoping the sodium lights are Lordsburg.

No such luck - The lights are illuminating an electric substation on the other side of the train tracks, and beyond the fenced-in equipment, offer little in terms of detail or my promised paved road. I push on.

I've lost track of time - At the start of the dirt road I was twenty miles from Lordsburg and was doing about eight MPH in the dirt. Even walking in the best of times would be four MPH. Right now I am pushing a loaded bike through loose dirt around desert scrub in pitch darkness with a tiny diffuse spot of light from a yellowing bike light.  My batteries are starting to give out.

The ground is rising in front of me. The train track curves in front of me and now I'm climbing up towards the grade of the tracks.

The ground is faintly vibrating beneath my feet. Out in the distance a rumble builds and a solitary light steadily grows in the distance.  A train is coming my way. I back down the slope a bit. 

The train rolls towards me.  I hear myself yelling "Don't look at the train! Look around! Look for the road!" The driver clangs his bell as the train roars ten feet away from me as I stay up on the edge of the slope to get a better view.

The locomotive's huge headlight cuts a huge band of light into the night and there, about fifty yards away, is the paved road. I have been labouring through desert brush for hours beside a paved road that was just out of the range of my bike light. I laugh.

I now roll into Lordsburg.  It's a pretty deserted town, with closed buildings. I find a motel and wake up the night clerk.  I pay cash. I have a Power Bar for dinner and a can of warm pop from the pop dispenser. I go to bed.

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