Charley’s ride across America 31. Wind, travel partner, Arizona


Day  61 march 29.  44 miles 6:50 hilly, end in Lordsburg NM

Total miles 2392,

Dear friends and family,

After Silver City, we spent the night in Lordsburg NM. Another town of mostly abandoned buildings, with a sort of sorry look to the place and people. The three AM train rattled the room and sounded like it was inside.

To get here we passed over the continental divide. We happened across a hiker who was heading north over several months along this trail (CDT) we also met Cindy, a solo bike tourer heading east. Tips for travel were exchanged and all moved on. At our cheap hotel we also met two older cyclists heading east ( like all of them) who seemed really spent.

The big windstorm was forecast for thursday afternoon, so we got an extra early start to get to Duncan. We heard that the city park was a “bikers” camping spot so had plans to camp there. The forecast had us change that plan. I’ve had the snow load tent test, and I didn’t want the wind strength test of forecasted 65 mph gusts. Instead we are safely inside the Simpson Hotel, an old refurbished place filled with wonderful art and antiques.

Now that we are traveling as a team and sharing rooms, the cost is halved, so we can enjoy these cool old places for less money than a single at a dump. This is a great advantage of dual travel. Gregg doesn’t get me in trouble with the locals either, like another travel partner I now remember.

As a curios young man of twenty, I went to Paris to visit my sister Karen, who worked there as an au pair.

I’d just read A MOVEABLE FEAST so I fashioned myself as a new Hemingway, and would gather my notebook and favorite pen to sit half the day at a sidewalk cafe in the Latin quarter while sipping a beer. Hemingway sat at these exact same cafes and wrote novels based on his own adventures. He made a living out of this lifestyle: go on adventures, write novels based on them, publish profitably, and hang out and drink with the other writers in Paris. Even be attractive to women. That life seemed close to perfect to me. A vision.

My notebook however was empty. I hadn’t had any adventures yet, so could not write about them. Instead I paid my visit to Shakespeare and Company, the English language bookstore next to the Seine. I picked THE DRIFTERS, by Michener, a book about a few young people exploring Europe and Morocco. I also re-read  A MOVEABLE FEAST, Hemingway’s descriptions of life in and out of Paris in the twenties. 

I got my idea from Michener:  Marrekesh, that will be my first adventure. Away I went with my yellow backpack and a sign saying SPAIN, and sat in front of the American Express office in the center of Paris. This was the earlier version of Uber as riders needing rides and drivers willing to take mostly young people met here. First to Spain, and then the ferry to Morocco.

A guy sat down next to me. His name was Roberto and he was from Argentina. He also wanted to get a ride to Spain, but for him it was to turn right at Barcelona and head to Pamplona for the running of the bulls. Since I spoke fifty words less of Spanish then as I do now ( meaning zero), we decided to join forces and he could translate.  Pamplona- even better. Hem’s favorite festival.

An older guy came by with a big van offering a ride all the way to Barcelona for twenty bucks. Both of us agreed to go so we got in the back of a delivery van With no windows. At first it was just the two of us, but after multiple stops another ten people were crammed in with us. It was hot and crowded as we drove south, not getting to see any of France on the way. The border crossing into Spain sounded serious, but the driver worked something out and we carried on. It felt like we were being Coyote’d across the border. I’m not sure what really was going on.

In Barcelona, we booked train tickets to Pamplona, with a planned arrival a couple of days before the start of the Feast of San Fermin, which happens to start at noon on July six, which was my twenty-first birthday!

Halfway there, the train broke down, surprising no one but us. As this was normal, the other passengers brought survival provisions including dried sausages, various cheeses, breads, and fruit. All were eager to share with us  youngsters. It was like a country picnic for two days.

Finally another engine came down the track, attached itself to the existing dead one and pulled us to Pamplona. We arrived the morning of the sixth, to enjoy a lunch of wine and tapas. We were coached that to properly partake in the festival we needed to buy ourselves botas , which are leather wine bags with spouts to drink from. We even got instructions as the day wore on. To properly drink, one must extend the bota arm fully, squeeze the sac, and aim the stream of wine upwards and into the open mouth, with no slopping. As it took a lot of practice, I had pretty well tie died my white t-shirt with all the practicing and missing. Wine was only pennies per bota, so I spent and drank.

This went on all night and I can remember a short nap in a field outside of town. At a little after five, the locals started gathering for the bull run. The town barricades off the side streets, herds the runners and then the bulls into the open street which ends in the bullfight arena. 

By a bit before eight, I found my ( not quite sober) self with Roberto in the middle of the running pack. At  eight  o’clock , the starting gun blasted and we trotted, then broke into a full sprint as we could hear the hooves on cobblestones. These were true fighting bulls, trained to be aggressive,  bearing down on us. I lost sight of Roberto as I was now running for my life. Runners in front would fall and following runners tried to help them up while still moving. A full sprint now and I spotted a set of horns directly behind me so jumped and climbed one of the side street barricades and launched myself over the wall and the crowd of onlookers pressed to it. Safe, but way too close, and I felt both exhilaration and stupidity.

The first bullfight was that afternoon. DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON was Hemingway’s book about bullfights. The macho matador staring down the bull till he killed it after first torturing it. This was quite a lesson for me, the Hemingway fan (worshiper) and animal lover. A burst in my hero ballon. That makes one more of a man? My first and last bullfight ever. 

It was enough to turn me away from the bulls, drinking, and general partying, so Roberto and I made our way to Madrid for some relaxing and culture. The Prada museum is there with the big El Grecos which was a wonderful place.

In the evening we went out to meet some locals. Inside an old bar, we ended up sitting with a table of young people similar in age, both men and women. I was particularly attracted to the woman sitting next to me, but was frustrated by my lack of the language. Roberto sat on her other side to translate for me. 

Spain was then a very Catholic conservative country and even though we were in the “ hip” capital city,  Franco was still the strict dictator, so best behavior was in order.

As I used my best manners in speaking English, to be translated to Spanish, my translator was up to no good. Each time I would say something like “ That’s a really pretty dress”, old Roberto would translate it to something about removing said dress. And on. And on. At first the young man seated closest started to rise up in defense of his countrywoman and soon a few of the other men followed suit. In only minutes, they were on their feet challenging me. I felt the pressure of them coming towards me and ran into the street, with the defenders in close pursuit. I was again running for my life like I did only two days prior. I managed to shake them and slowly slithered through back streets to return quite late to the pension ( room for rent in a family home) where I found a laughing travel mate.

I learned to pick a travel partner wisely. And something about visioning.

Sending love,


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