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Las Cruces « Upsidedown and Backwards

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Las Cruces

By | April 15, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Las Cruces
20 miles around town

I started out the day with a trip back to the bike shop. My odometer was still working sporadically, as it wasn’t affixed quite right and would fall out of place, which also tended to cause an irritating knocking sound with each rotation. Everyone remembered me. Pablo, a droll hipster looking type with white framed glasses bigger than mine, listened to me vent as he pulled the transmitter off to do it right this time. He pointed out that the cadence magnet had clean fallen off, and he didn’t know what I needed it for anyway. The mechanic in Wickenburg thought cadence was useless for touring, too, and I explained to Pablo as I explained to earplugs how Ben and I used the cadence to collaborate on the tandem, and I was used to paying attention to it. Though, after two and a half weeks of being the only one on the bike, I was starting to be comfortable that I could manage my cadence by feel rather than by number. He didn’t bother to replace the magnet, convinced he had turned me against cadence tracking, I guess.

When I grumbled that I had never had any trouble with my old computer with wires (until I lost the headset), while the bike shop in San Diego assured me that everyone loved this wireless set up and it never gave anyone any trouble, Pablo said he used a wired one on his bike. Later in the day I had the chance to call the San Diego store and complain, and they were surprised to hear it and would take mine back, except I was calling from New Mexico. So it’s fixable in the future. I hope it works well enough for the time being, because I’m not really interested in buying a new one at the moment. Enough complaining, though what I’m mostly trying to get across is that I really like this bike shop.

They sent me on my way with directions to the post office and the nearest frozen custard, with wishes that they not see me again before I leave. Unfortunately, the frozen custard place was out of business in that location, probably due to some embezzlement issues another mechanic had mentioned the day before. After a pretty pitiful burrito, just to tide me over, I headed out to Mesilla, a historic little town on the edge of Las Cruces.

Mesilla consists of a few blocks of old style adobe homes surrounding an old town square, currently inhabited by a big church, a big gazebo, and tourist restaurants and shops. Most of the shops seemed to be carrying the same trinkets they were twenty-five years ago, from Arizona to Florida, when my sister and I could think of nothing better than combing every single one of them for the perfect souvenir. I recognized the fudge, the rocks, the Indian dolls and the jewelry made in China. The postcards and the magnets looked the same. There were some new stuffed animals that were round, unnaturally colored, and labelled as specifically for throwing. There were more animal-shaped purses than I remembered, too.

On the corner was an upscale furnishings store, something I sure don’t need. But I eyed the chocolate shop and ducked into a smaller jewelry store.

Barbara had peridot green eyes (they have to be contacts!) and was pricing a box of new jewelry. She had recently returned from the markets and was excited about her new finds. She had been in Las Cruces since she drove out in her van thirty years ago and stayed, riding a bicycle everywhere she went. She says when she told her sister’s kids about that time, they gasped, “Aunt Deborah! You were homeless!”

She said back then people were worried about her, a woman traveling alone. I said I get a lot of that, too. She scoffed. I mentioned that I seem to get it a lot less in Las Cruces than everywhere else I’ve been.

“That’s because that’s how everyone else got to Las Cruces!”

Deborah said her Indian friends made fun of her “whitebread mayonnaise body.” She loved visiting the artists at the different reservations. The Zuni, in her opinion, did fine work, while some others were to rushed to do too much detail. She felt like she was supporting local craftspeople. She also felt she had been Native in at least one other life. She also mentioned how she smudged the shop quite often. You never knew what kind of people would come into the store, and what kind of energy they would bring, so she had to smudge pretty often.

She told me how her building was built in 1854. You could still see some of the original parts.


She pointed me to the courtyard around the corner, where the landlord had erected a shrine to his deceased wife.


Deborah recommended the homemade ice cream across the square. It wasn’t frozen custard, but it was made with local pecans. I might have enjoyed lunch at one of the Mesilla cafes better than the convenient store burrito I had wolfed down earlier, but for once I wasn’t hungry.


I headed north to take the meandering way through town, rather than the way south to the next town of Stamen. It was hot and dusty, and there were pecan groves both directions. Instead of irrigating them, they flood them. It is a bit disconcerting to see so much standing water in the desert. Anna and I both wondered how efficient that was, but she had been told it was cheaper than installing irrigation pipes, so growers continued to do it.


It got hotter and dustier and I was happy to turn back towards town. I had a great bike map that marked how suitable any give road was for biking on. But the scale was also difficult to tell, with many small roads left out, so I only had a general idea of where I was.


I wandered through more modern neighborhoods, still mostly adobe.

Tan adobe, red clay adobe, some more well-cared for than others. One with a bright orange muscle car in the back. Salmon pink adobe looks goofy, as does a rock wall with turquoise mortar. Brown painted rocks with white mortar look like a giraffe wall. Chocolate brown adobe looks too 70′s. Suburban adobe duplexes are divided by subtly differing shades of adobe color. Wrought iron decoration looks pretty sharp on adobe.

I passed a brightly tiled gate on one corner, and stopped to take a picture.


Two houses down, a man standing by his own gate, made of rusted debris, waved me down and told me about another town gate a few blocks away.


His own yard was much more compelling. Bobby Hudson, a ceramics artist, now a jewelry maker, had been assembling bits and pieces of things he and his wife found in the desert or in the trash. Bleached cow vertebrae, lavender glass bottles, rocks, faded doors and assorted metal things, among others, decorated his home.


He gave me a rundown of some cultural events happening soon in town. He was proud of Las Cruces’ burgeoning arts scene and seemed pretty involved in several civic projects. I felt like I was disappointing him by leaving the next day!

It was awfully nice to ride around with no gear again!

Later in the evening, Anna and I went out for Indian food. She was another wonderful person to stay with! She’s hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and is looking into bike touring in the future. She’s been a ranger at Sequoia. I’m so glad she was able to take time from her busy schedule working and going to school full time so we could compare adventures! And I’m so grateful for her driving me around to make my trip move forward. I continue to feel like I am in the right place at the right time.

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