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May 31-June1

Adios to New Mexico and howdy to Texas! Tammy, the boys and I lived in Texas for ten years. Not in west Texas, but still, just crossing the border feels like coming home. Back when we lived here, I could never have imagined pedaling a bike and towing a magnificent dog like Jax across the entire state, but that’s what I intend to do. I hope everyone “Drives Friendly — the Texas Way” while we’re here!

The very middle of Route 66, with Lukas and Stephia, who came all the way from Germany to explore the Mother Road.
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Jax and his very friendly pal, Buttons, behind the Fabulous 40 Motel in Adrian. Buttons weighed less than half what an average calf weighs at birth, so the motel owners saved him from certain death when they took him in.

May 30

The 59 miles from Santa Rosa to Tucumcari started out beautifully. The weather was sunny, but not too hot. The Wind Advisory had finally expired and the south wind, though still brisk, wasn’t too big of a factor since we had turned east. Some dark clouds were building behind us, but I wasn’t worried… the afternoon forecast for Santa Rosa called for “a possible stray thunderstorm” and Tucumcari had no rain in the forecast. The further I pedaled from Santa Rosa, I reasoned, the less likely I was to encounter rain.

Jax and I stopped to play, eat and drink at a really nice rest area that was “closed,” so we had it all to ourselves. I fell asleep on a picnic bench for 15-20 minutes, while Jax stood watch. When I awoke, it was a little cooler and the wind had shifted to the southwest. “Awesome –  a tailwind – almost! Let’s roll, boy.”

On I-40 from Santa Rosa to Tucumcari

So we rolled on, and now we were really moving (relative to our normal crawl). An hour went by and a passing cloud cast a shadow on us. I welcomed the coolness. Another half hour brought another shadow, only this one didn’t pass. We were going up a long, gradual hill when the first raindrop hit my arm. Then all its brothers and sisters joined the party so quickly I didn’t have time to stop and get out my rain jacket or the battered tarp I use to seal off the mesh panels in Jax’s trailer. I just kept pedaling, trying to get to the shelter of an underpass about a half mile up the hill. A little thunder and lightning helped me pedal faster. When we got there, we were both soaked, but the rain was slowing. I guessed that we’d been caught by that “possible stray thunderstorm.” The rain slowed to a trickle, so we set out again and soon reached the long downhill stretch that would take us to Tucumcari. 

The slope was gentle, but with very little pedaling we cruised at a steady 27-29 mph., roughly 3X our average speed! Every once in awhile, a huge raindrop or two would hit me, lightning would flash from behind and I’d hear almost simultaneous thunder. It dawned on me that a storm was pushing us ahead of it and that if I slowed down, or it sped up, this easy cruise would be over. So I pedaled a little harder and hoped it would slow down or change direction. It did neither and with four miles to go, I had to exit and turn northeast onto Old Route 66. The second I turned, the wind that had been pushing us forward hit us broadside and the sheets of rain that must have been juuust behind us for miles caught up with us. And then came the hail — little marbles that stung when they hit. Rain was falling faster than it could drain off the road, so we were rolling through water about 3 inches deep. And lightning… ground strikes (boom! Boom!! BOOM!!!) all over the place. 

All I could do was pedal and think electrically-non-conductive thoughts. After a mile of this, I saw a dark shape that turned out to be an abandoned Shell station, rolled through its cratered, flooded parking lot and took shelter under its awning, next to graffiti-covered pumps. Route 66. “The Mother Road.” “America’s Main Street.” Despite its romantic image, what I saw right then had a very post-apocalyptic vibe. I kept an eye out for zombie gas station attendants. 

No zombies showed and when the storm weakened, we left the station and covered the last three miles with ease. Our destination was the Palomino Motel, which may have seen better days, but which is run by a very nice woman. She waived their customary pet fee and gave us an extra large room so I could wheel in my soggy bike, trailer, dog and self, turn on the heat and ceiling fan, and begin the drying-out process.

The next morning, we stopped at a store to get dog food. That’s where we met Aki from Japan, who is bicycling solo from Boston to L.A. Talking to Aki was like playing charades, but I learned he, too, had been caught out in yesterday’s storm. I don’t think he was able to make it into town, though — I gathered that he stopped at a farmhouse and they took him in for the night. “Home help. Home help.” I’m proud of whoever opened their door for Aki.

The rig, wet but undefeated.
You a’ight, John?
Our storm moved on, but others came during the night.
Jax and Aki. “Home help. Home help.”
Storms are stressful, but they’re nothing compared to what many of our service men and women go through. And don’t forget the dogs with so much to give that are locked in cages. You can help! Please tap or click the image or this link to donate.
Here’s an interactive map showing our progress so far. Sometimes the paw prints aren’t on the red line. That means we decided not to follow the planned route at that point. Don’t forget, you can also keep track of us by clicking “Our Route and Progress” in the top menu.

May 28-29

Short post tonight — no WiFi here and no awesome people stories. We had good weather on both days though, which was really nice!

Jax waiting for me to finish packing up

May 19-27

Jax and I have crossed into New Mexico, crossed the Continental Divide and crossed the 1,500-mile mark since the last post! We are spending Memorial Day weekend in Santa Fe to wait for the high wind advisories to pass and to visit a ranch that my great grandfather once owned, but that I had never seen. Our family left that business during WWII, but echoes of the ranch live on in us. My Mom’s stories of her and her cousins’ adventures on the 81,000-acre San Cristobal Ranch, now owned by the Singleton family, fired my imagination as a child, made me want to be a cowboy, made me dream big dreams. I think dreams like those and the possibility they might come true are some of the most important things our service men and women have fought and sacrificed for. Gratitude for that sacrifice is why Jax and I are out here. Please consider donating to K9s For Warriors to show your gratitude to those who risked their lives so we can pursue our dreams. Okay, back to bike tour-related stories after these three photos.

Two big parts of my life: family legends from the past and my amigo who is always “right here, right now”
Jax smells 81,000 acres-worth of interesting critters
A lot of land, a lot of history, a lot of work!

Wind has been our constant companion for the last couple of weeks. We’re about as aerodynamic as a brick. A strong headwind can double the time it takes us to get to the next stop, leaving less time to find supplies and recover for the next day’s ride. We have rolled along some rough roads, over some hills, through some hail and quite a bit of rain, but the wind has been the biggest challenge. At times I’ve had to pedal hard to go 7 mph downhill.

After fighting upwind for the 40 miles from Cortez, CO to Shiprock, NM, we turned east for a relatively easier 30 miles to Farmington. During that stretch, several people honked and waved, as many have done before on this trip. I pedaled along through the Navajo Nation and wondered why they would do that. Would I do that if I drove past some dude pulling a trailer behind a bicycle? I mean, the encouragement felt nice, but what was the motivation for it? My pondering was interrupted when a truck suddenly whipped in front of me and stopped on the shoulder. A woman got out and hurried toward me with a sack in her hands. She said, “We just had a cookout and I wanted you to have these cheeseburgers and hot dogs.” It was like the Universe slapped me across the face and said “EAT. Quit asking so many questions. Here’s some delicious food.”

Her name was Darleen. She knew nothing about why we’re out here, she just saw an opportunity to be kind and took it. We talked a little, I took her picture (it’s in the video below) and she told me what to expect on the road ahead. Then I wolfed down the food, sharing some with the Mighty Jax, while we watched an angel drive away. That ended up being a 10+ hour day of riding, but it was well worth the effort.

From Farmington, we moved on to Nageezi, near the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. There were no campsites or motels, but the friendly staff at the Sinclair Station let us set up camp next to their picnic tables. Then we rolled another 49 miles to Cuba, a gritty little town that people seem to use as a launching point for hiking and fishing in the Santa Fe National Forest and San Pedro Parks Wilderness Area. Both of those stretches were windy, but the next one, from Cuba to Bernalillo, almost blew us away. That was a real grinder and, to top it off, something cut through my well-worn rear tire, through the puncture-resistant Kevlar strip and through the inner tube, making a big enough hole that the latex sealant inside couldn’t do its job. All I could do was mop up the useless sealant and put in a new tube, while Jax watched and waited. Afterward, we played with a plastic water bottle Jax found by the side of the road, then we rolled on.

In Bernalillo we met up with Rob, a friend I hadn’t seen for 30 years, and his dog Gordie, the only one allowed to sit in the front passenger seat of his van. Rob is an avid backcountry motorcyclist, a board member and leader of Backcountry Discovery Routes, the owner of Trailmaster Adventure Gear and an all around excellent human being. I forgave him for his excessive dependence on internal combustion engines 😉 when he used his van to take my bike to a shop in Albuquerque to get new tubeless tires. Jax, the bike and me in the back, Gordie in the front. Rob said even his lovely wife, Peggy, has to sit in the back. For the rest of this trip, I’ll be weighing the pros and cons of adopting that policy with Tammy and Jax when we get home.😉

We caught a break on the road from Bernalillo to Santa Fe, since the route turned northeast. It was amazing to have a brisk tailwind behind us almost all the way. This area has had high wind advisories since then, with winds gusting up to 55 mph from the south, which is the direction we’re headed next. Yesterday, we had a “dry thunderstorm,” with high winds, lightning and thunder, but no rain. Tomorrow the wind is supposed to die down to 20-30 mph, so we will ride through the San Cristobal Ranch to Clines Corners and try to get back on track again. Texas is close to 250 miles away, but it feels like we’re almost there.

Jax was not very impressed by the Continental Divide where we crossed it; west of Cuba, NM

May 15-18

After a rewarding, but exhausting day of water-deprived climbing, I took the 15th off to recover in Monticello, before proceeding to Colorado.

May 16: Monticello, UT to Dove Creek, CO

I intended to get to Dolores, but we stopped in the tiny town of Dove Creek,CO before the road turned south, into the teeth of the wind. Even when we were broadside to the wind, it was hard to control the loaded bike and trailer when the big gusts hit. This southerly wind would plague us all the way to Albuquerque! On the plus side though, the roads in southwestern Colorado were a HUGE improvement over the roads of southeastern Utah.


May 17-18: Dove Creek to Dolores to Cortez

Having waited for the wind to ease off (a little), we set out for Dolores. Shortly after departure, I saw a couple of squalls moving north across the high plains. Like a racing tortoise, I tried as hard as I could to outrun it, but one of the little storms caught us and hailed all over us for 10-15 minutes. The hail was small, but still, I envied Jax in his covered trailer. No problem, keep pedaling. The storm moved on and so did we, all the way to the beautiful home of our hosts, Tony, Sharon and the two sweet German Shorthaired Pointers they have rescued. After a fun, GSP-filled evening and morning, Jax and I rolled to the Canyon of the Ancients Museum and then made the short remaining ride to Cortez, to position ourselves for a longer trek to Farmington, New Mexico.

Duck the GSP runs after the Mighty Jax

All is well, I feel great, Jax feels great, I just need to work harder to get caught up with these posts!

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May 14 — Moab to Monticello, 55 miles

Tough day, but a good one. It was nearly a nonstop climb to Monticello after Hole ‘n the Wall at mile 17 or so. The day started out very warm, so I was glad to see a cloudburst up ahead and to feel the wind that came with it. When the wind strengthened and started to push us back, I was less glad. Be careful what you wish for. At mile 30, with the biggest incline of the day still ahead, I realized I should have filled another water bottle for this ride. Oh well. Swallowing my pride, I begged an eighth of a bottle of water from two gentlemen fixing a truck on the roadside. They were Brad and his son, Brad Jr., and that’s all they had with them. An hour and a half later, down to 4 ounces of water, we were laboring up the last big climb to Monticello. That’s when Brad Sr. pulled up in his truck with 1 1/2 gallons of cool water he had driven out of his way to get just for us. I offered to pay him but he wouldn’t take anything for it. Brad works for a carnival outside of Salt Lake City, over 280 miles away from Monticello. One traveler helping another because he thought it was the right thing to do. Don’t tell me people aren’t awesome.

Brad knows the way to a thirsty dog’s heart

May 12 — Green River to Moab, 54 miles

The first 21 miles out of Green River were a little loud, but easy, since we rode on I-70 all the way to Crescent Junction. The pavement was smooth and the shoulder was wide, keeping us well separated from the Sunday traffic. At Papa Joe’s Stop & Go (home of alien jerky), a young man told me he had been one of the people who beeped their horns at us a couple of days before. He hoped he hadn’t startled me and had only meant to send me good vibes. As we talked, I discovered he had just ridden part of my upcoming route, not on a loaded touring bike pulling a trailer, but on a bike, nonetheless. He warned me that I had days of bike-unfriendly Utah roads ahead. Sure enough, when we turned south on U.S. 191, the shoulder narrowed and the drunken rumble strip maker’s handiwork was in evidence once again.

But closer to Moab, there was a nice bike path leading all the way to town. Of course that sweet, smooth path was where my rear tire went flat. No problem, that gave me the chance to meet cyclists Don and Coylene, who kindly stopped to see if I needed assistance. After I put the tire back on, Jax got to run for several miles before we entered Moab, where our amazing hosts, Terry, Julia and their amazing dog Freddie awaited.

Jax doesn’t really need a path.
Julia and Terry, Freddie and Jax. Freddie, a stately 13-year-old, has a good thing going in Moab and let Jax know right away that no stinking German Shorthair was going to mess it up for him. Jax got the message and they coexisted peacefully for the two days we were there. 😊

My apologies for delays in posting. I’ve been spending a lot of time reviewing and revising our route and calling ahead to make arrangements for the next week’s travels, based on the advice of people who know more about this region than I do. I won’t change the “planned route” map on this site, but the paw prints that show where we are will sometimes be off the originally planned course.