I would have loved to have slept the entire morning away, but I had a mission to complete on Thursday and a limited amount of time to complete that mission. After waking, I began packing up and went downstairs to check out the complimentary breakfast. Pretty standard- cereal, muffins, danish, juice, and waffles. I ate quickly and returned to my room to finish getting ready. I had just over twenty miles to ride that day to get to downtown Albuquerque, but the tasks I needed complete once I got there were not necessarily going to be easy.
I called Amtrak the night before and learned that my bike needs to be boxed up to be taken on the train. My hope was that I could just load the bicycle as is on the train, with all my bags still hanging on the side. That way I could just load on, enjoy the train ride, and unload and ride away in Los Angeles. Under these conditions I needed to box up my bike, consolidate all my possessions to two or three bags to avoid extra charges, and somehow get my boxed bike and luggage to the train station from wherever I boxed the bike. The closest bike shop to the station was about a mile away. Not too far, but that would mean probably dragging my boxed bike as well as some big bags (which I did not have yet) down the sidewalk.
The ride itself was decent, mostly through suburbia. I just let myself get lost in thought as I passed down the highway until I came upon a bike path. The road I had planned on riding into the city was closed off completely for construction, and I had no idea of any alternative, given that I had just written down some simple directions from looking at a map online. The bike path looked to parallel the closed road, so I took a gamble and headed down the path. If nothing else, it would be a relaxing break from riding on the streets. Fortuitously, the path completely paralleled the road and brought me exactly where I wanted to be, and all while riding along the Rio Grande. How nice.
Once I reached downtown, I had three objectives to complete in order to make the train and be on my way to sunny southern California. I arrived around 11:30, and the train was scheduled to depart at 4:45. I figured that gave me about four hours to accomplish my tasks and still ensure no chance of missing the train. First objective was to find a thrift store and buy some luggage for all my goods. I would need to consolidate my five bags of possessions into about three bags that would be easy to carry. I had written down the location and directions to two thrift stores that morning, a Goodwill and a Salvation Army. The Goodwill was not actually there anymore or maybe never was there. The Salvation Army was where it should be, but they did not have what I was looking for, just some small duffel bags and some old, hard-case luggage. Not gonna cut it. So with my only two documented potentials unsuccessful, I needed to find some new resources. I asked around at the Salvation Army, but no one could tell me an exact location, just vicinities, and everywhere else required climbing a huge hill. Still, I had no choice; I had to make this work.
I climbed the giant hill that went on for miles. It was steep at parts, but the worst part was the traffic. I got the feeling that drivers in Albuquerque do not care too much for cyclists. No specific incidents worth mentioning, I just did not feel terribly safe on those roads. So up and up I went, keeping a keen eye out for thrift stores. Passed strip mall after strip mall, but nothing appeared. Just as I was about to give up in that area and turn around, I spotted a big sign that merely said ‘Thrift Store.’ Perfect. The store was fairly large, filled mostly with women’s clothing, as most thrift stores generally are. I found the section with luggage and scored big time. The place had exactly what I was looking for. The first piece is a large duffel bag. I knew it was easily big enough to fit my sleeping bag, as well as my other large items. In addition the bag also had a telescoping plastic handle and two wheels on the other end. That would make it much easier for getting down the street to the train station. Then I found a smaller duffel bag, perfect size to carry easily and bring onboard the train with me. And wouldn’t you know it, both bags were nearly matching, almost looking as if they came from a set. Basically, they were both black and red. It is almost as if they were there at that store just waiting for me. At the register I had another great surprise as well. That day happened to be half-off day, and everything was fifty-percent off. So for a mere five dollars and fifty cents I purchased exactly what I was looking for, and quite easily.
With just a little work, I strapped the new bags onto my load and set out for a bike shop. I had written down the locations of the two shops closest to the train station, and made my way to the closest one. I needed to pick up a box to put my bike in. The train station usually has boxes, but they charge, and usually bike shops are more than willing to dole out free bike boxes. The shop I stopped into, Two Wheel Drive, was quite friendly, and not only did they give me a box, they let me use some of their floor space to save me from doing the work outside on the cold asphalt of their parking lot. One man was particularly friendly, and we chatted for the entire time I was there. He asked a lot of questions and more than once explained to me why he loved Albuquerque so much. He is the only person I have talked to that has spoken so highly of that city.
It took quite a bit of work to break down my bike enough to fit in a box with all my racks and some accessories. After I finally got the bike packed up and transferred all of my possessions into those two new bags, I finally had to stop for a moment and begin to consider how the hell I was going to get all this stuff down the road to the train station. The bike box is not terribly heavy, just terribly awkward to carry. The box is quite long and has handles cut in the side that really only make it conducive to carrying with two hands. I needed to be able to handle that one with one hand. Then I had the large duffel bag, which could be rolled, the smaller duffel bag, which could either be slung on one shoulder or stacked on top of the larger bag and rolled along. Then I had a backpack, which housed my essentials for easy access on the train- some food and electronics. The bike shop employee also racked his brain with me on the best option for transport. He said he would just drive me down there, but he didn’t have his truck there. He had the great idea to cut another handle into the box at the halfway point on the side, instead of on the edges, thus making it somewhat possible to carry with just one hand. Still maneuvering the sometimes narrow and busy sidewalks of the city was not going to be easy. I said I would just go for it. I think the time was only about three, which really gave me an hour of comfortable time to get down there. I figured the distance was not much more than a mile, which, even with the difficulty of toting that baggage, shouldn’t be tough to manage within that large window of time. Another employee, however, suggested asking the guy next door, who owned a used book store. He has a truck and maybe would be willing to give me a ride. I figured it was a long shot, given that this man had not met me and would probably have no incentive to interrupt his day to give a stranger a ride down the street. I was wrong, and the guy was willing to help me out. So we loaded all my gear into the back of his old 4-Runner, and he took me down to the station. What a nice guy.
From where the man let me off, I still had a block and a half to walk to the station, but I managed alright. Then it was only a matter of buying my ticket and checking my bag and bike. That all went fairly smoothly and left me with nearly an hour of time to kill before departure. I occupied the time with some reading and people-watching. The train was on time arriving but late departing by at least a half hour, but I didn’t care. I had nothing to do but get comfortable and settle in for a sixteen hour ride to a destination that probably would have taken me at least that many days to reach by bicycle. As I settled into my seat by the window, as we finally got moving and heading west, I thought it a good idea to try to reflect upon my recent decision, on the reality of the end of a long journey. This trip was not an outing or a vacation, it was my life for four months. It was a lifestyle completely different from the norms of our society, and I felt that I would be better off putting the ending into perspective before attempting to assimilate back into some semblance of ‘normal’ life, life not on the road. These thoughts made me sad, but I knew that was for the best. With any loss or major life change, grief is and should be a natural process, a healthy way of accepting that what was once so physically prominent in our lives will now only remain in thought and memory. The memories always remain, especially with the valuable resource that has been this journal. With these writings I can revisit my entire adventure or any segment at any time and relive part of the amazing experience. And to think that I originally did not want to keep a journal like this. The main reason why I decided to do it was so that I would not have to get on the phone every day and notify family that I was still alive and where I was and how things had been. I figured it was worth the hassle of carrying a laptop and writing every day or so to keep people updated, instead of telling the same stories multiple times every few days. Looking back now, it was well worth the extra weight and bulk.