|Route Planning Quagmire In Socorro, New Mexico
There was only one particular segment of my planned
route that I was unsure about. From Socorro, I intended to continue traveling
on Highway 60 over to Mountainair. The simplest route would be to take
Interstate 25 about 20 miles north (which is also Highway 60), then travel east as Highway 60 broke off on
its own. Looking closer at the map, however, I noticed a light gray line
signifying a minor road that traveled north-northeast (NNE)
out of Socorro. This would be a short cut that would lead me
away from the Interstate and directly onto Highway 60. I was open
to riding on the Interstate again, but if I could just find that
local road, I would save myself some distance and
probably have a more peaceful ride. The question was: Where exactly is that road?
Dave graciously agreed to search
for this mysterious road in his truck. Just north of Socorro, among
the small village areas of ranches and small homes replete with junk,
useless crap and old tires in front of them, we searched for the road.
It should be right around here! We found a road that looked like it could be the one, but disappointingly, the
road merely snaked around and eventually went right along the Interstate. It appeared my map was outdated:
The land to the northeast was now part of a wildlife refuge and the road was probably disbanded or inactive.
We did not give up. Maybe there is a frontage road along the Interstate, I thought.
We found a road that initially appeared to be a good one, but within a mile,
the pavement became really bumpy ... a bumpy, unrideable road with a gate that prohibited entry. (Photo Above)
I was frustrated. We saw a New Mexico State Police Headquarters
on the north side of Socorro, and I had the not-so-bright idea
of asking for input about all this and confirming that
it was not unlawful to ride a bicycle on this stretch of Interstate highway. Big mistake.
One woman, dressed in police gear, stood behind the counter with a bullet-proof glass between us.
"I'm bicycling across America and I plan to reach Mountainair tomorrow.
I just wanted to make sure it's okay to ride
on the Interstate up to the Highway 60 turnoff."
Simple question, I thought, but she would not give me a straight answer. She warned bicyclists have been stopped
by state troopers on occasions where really strong crosswinds made things dangerous,
but she also acknowleged that many cyclists bike the route all the time.
I pressed her. "So is it okay? Will you tell me, yes or no, whether it is unlawful to bike on the Interstate."
After rambling a little longer, she hemmed and hawwed. "Use your discretion." she said.
Great. What the heck does that mean? I just wanted to know,
on a very practical level, whether or not I would be okay to ride my bike on the highway tomorrow morning.
I have personal friends who are
law enforcement officials who have the competence to
answer my questions and enjoy discussing matters about what is legal,
illegal and what they generally enforce more or less, but I would have no luck here.
My conversation with this woman was utterly useless.
I tried one last time to get a straight answer using a different angle. "If I ride on the Interstate and a cop sees me, will I be pulled ..."
Suddenly, the door opened loudly. Dave was on his
cell phone and speaking in an annoyingly loud tone.
"Uh huh ... okay ... A pen? Do either of you have a pen?" Dave clamored.
The scene would have been hilarious, if I had not been stewing over
the conversation I was having with this officer.
My buddy totally interupted our conversation and broke my train of thought. I was ready to explode.
"Five. One. Two. Six. ... Six." Dave recited, going through each number loudly as he wrote it down.
I gave up. I mustered enough congeniality to thank the officer for her time and walked out.
(Dave works as a photographer for a prominent group that researches and hunts around the
country for the legend of "Bigfoot." The head person called Dave
directly and he urgently needed to write down a number.)
In retrospect, I should not have bothered asking, because the general
rule in rural areas of the Southwest is one can lawfully
ride on interstate highways just as I had done on I-10 in Arizona, if there is
no legitimate alternative route or frontage road. I received this very direct answer by phone from the Arizona state police.
Of course, I thought I would have been nice to confirm with the local New Mexico state police,
but I would not receive that assurance. My only hope for other long-distance bike riders is my
conversation with this particular officer at the headquarters was an aberration.
Back in the truck, I had a decision to make:
1) Ride on the Interstate 25 north approximately 20 miles and risk the
possibility of a state trooper arbitrarily pulling me over, ordering
me back to Socorro, and essentially ruining/wasting a day of riding.
It was an unlikely scenario, but peace of mind was often paramount to decisions like this.
2) Go an alternative route by traveling south seven miles to San Antonio,
New Mexico, where Highway 380 would take me hundreds of miles east into
I chose the latter. I simply did not want to risk any more hinderances on the ride.
Since I had a willing driver in Dave,
I thought it would be a good idea to see what the frontage road (Highway 1)
to San Antonio looked like just a few miles south.
Morale was really low and I was indignant from the frustration of recent events.
Arriving in San Antonio, I told Dave that if he saw
a motel in town, he could just drop me off here. I didn't
like that ugly frontage road with junky homes we were just on anyway, I grumbled. We saw
a sign for a bed & breakfast and after introducing myself and inquiring about their rate, the innkeeper gave me
a really good deal. I would stay at this B&B!
I was so ticked off from the police station debacle, that
I was not at all upset about the perception
of "cheating" seven miles to San Antonio. Those seven miles are on the New Mexico State Police!
Then again, the seven miles to San Antonio were straight south,
meaning I gained no horizontal distance closer to the Atlantic, just like in the
southern California desert.
Changes In Plans
The change in my route really bothered me, and I
came to terms with one element of the journey that I wanted significant control over.
The alternative route did not appear to have any advantage
or disadvantage to the old one. Still, it was not my plan and it got under my skin.
It was all about control. Anyone with life experience
knows one's plans rarely turn out as intended, and flexibility was
so important with such an enterprise as bicycling across America. Fortunately,
after showering and settling at the B&B, I finally loosened up.
My route had two major changes. From Globe, AZ, the original route was
to continue on Highway 60 to Show Low, AZ and Springerville, AZ, before continuing east to Datil.
In late January, however, I drove through my proposed route during a snowstorm and realized
just how cold and wintery the conditions were in the White
Mountain region in Arizona. I stayed in a cheap motel in Show Low on
a night the town was being slammed with a huge snowstorm.
Alarmed, I made the alternative plan of going through Safford, AZ,
Glenwood, NM and Reserve, NM through mountains in western New Mexico.
This second change would be this one. Highway 380 east
from Socorro would take me parallel to my planned route about 30-40 miles south of my original route
(Highway 60 east in New Mexico to Highway 82 east of Lubbock).
I would reconnect with Highway 82 somewhere in central or eastern Texas,
and with it being a long way off, there was no need to think about it now.