EL PASO — We crossed on Friday into the fourth state on our transcontinental bicycle journey and what did we see?
We saw miles and miles of Texas, more than 1,000, in fact — more than a third of our cross-country trip from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla.
After spending 20 days crossing California, Arizona and New Mexico, we’ll spend the next three weeks traversing this vast state and won’t be quit of it until the end of October when we cross the Sabine River into Merryville, La.
Friday’s ride of nearly 52 miles took us from Las Cruces, N.M., to El Paso, where we spent the night at a downtown youth hostel, housed in an old hotel called the Gardner.
The last nine miles of the ride were an adventure in urban cycling as we dodged and weaved through the heavy traffic on Mesa Street, a major thoroughfare, into downtown El Paso.
Attack of the tire-eating goatheads: Friday morning’s ride out of Las Cruces began very pleasantly. A local cyclist suggested we use a bike trail along the Rio Grande to avoid heavy rush-hour traffic along U.S. 70.
Six of us rode the trail. At the end, our tires were festooned with the burrs, called “goatheads,” which caused a total of seven flat tires. Dolores, who rides a small-wheeled Bike Friday and pulls a two-wheeled trailer, had three flats. Kami had two. And Reg and John V. each had one.
I was lucky. I plucked about a half-dozen goatheads from my tires, but they apparently didn’t penetrate to the tubes. I’m using German-made Schwalbe Marathon Plus touring tires, which have a protective cushion that is supposed to thwart even a thumbtack.
I’m also using Specialized Airlock self-sealing tubes with a slimy substance inside. Even if a goathead did penetrate the tube, the slime is supposed to seal the puncture.
We spent more than an hour along the road changing the flats, complicated by the fact that all of the panniers had to be taken off the bikes and then remounted once the tires were fixed.
Despite that inauspicious start, the rest of the ride — except for the traffic heading into El Paso — proved to be very pleasant, some of it through pecan orchards on both sides of the road.
We are now 923 miles into our journey. Only about 2,200 miles still to go