An odd little corner of the southwest that we have never visited before
I am not sure why this city pair was off my radar for so long. I guess it crossing a state border and being a bit out of the way made it less obvious.
I had drived the I-10 through El Paso a few times and see all the nasty footage about violence in Juarez, so I had pretty low expectations. As always, things were different on the ground.
We didn't get to spend much time in Las Cruces because we had a lot of mileage to cover before nightfall. The weather forecast called for a severe cold front arriving that night, so I also wanted to bank as much mileage when it was warm as possible. All hotels were across the border as well.
Apparently, Las Cruces is nothing like the rest of New Mexico at all, with minimal native american footprint and not much of the NM kitsch. Our Uber driver explained that it was basically an extension of El Paso and the two cities, while being in different states, share a great deal in common. Surprisingly, U of NM at Las Cruces gives in-state tuition to students from El Paso.
We cheated a bit by starting outside of Las Cruces in a town called Mesilla. Our planned quick breakfast turned into a fancy destination brunch place - but they offered food to go.
The first half of Day 1 was beautiful with meandering country roads with minimal traffic and great scenery. This quickly gave way to more mainline roads (with nice big shoulders), but it was a lot less picturesque. The terrain was hot, dry, and windy. Bodegas and taco trucks were found in a couple small agricultural towns along the way.
To break the boredom, we plotted a route off the main road that turned out to be a gravel levee road. It was pleasant, but passed a few small settlements with an ominous vibe and many dogs. We eventually ran into a few off leash and had to turn around. Then, in the process of making our way back to the highway, I drove the stroller right through a nice thick patch of goat head thorns. Ack!
We had one flat immediately and another slow leak that had to be fixed a few miles down the road. As always, Weston love the process of fixing the tire, which it makes os much more fun. He actually insisted on carrying one of the empty tubes for the remainder of this adventure.
We reached the Anthony, TX (after passing through Anthony, NM of course) as night fell and the temps dropped. The town, however, was pretty ragged and night of poor sleep and fast food didn't sound that appealing. We were in good spirits and making good time, so decided to keep on going to Vinton, where more civilized fare awaited.
Even better was strangely nice paved bike path south from the border to Vinton which allowed us to use the Cardiff skate. I carry this thing everywhere and rarely find appropriate times to use it. It was really nice to use different muscles and I felt like were going really fast. However, when I checked the stats, it doesn't make us go much faster - maybe 1 or 2 min/mile faster. At this point, I am not sure it's worth the weight and annoyance for this minimal benefit.
Dinner at Rudy's brought back memories of my time in Austin and we were in bed early as the wind started to howl with the approaching cold front.
Day 2, Sunday, dawned with temps in the mid-30's and was a bit worried about keeping West warm. I had brought all his cold weather gear, including down jacket, bib-style wind pants, and snow boots - but I still had memories of how challenging it was to keep him warm in Taiwan last year and didn't want to take any chances. D
Despite my concerns, It was really dry, wonderfully sunny, and we stopped frequently, so he was warm throughout the day.
We made good time through the suburbs of El Paso and found ourselves downtown pretty quickly. There was even a nice big bike lane on the main drag into the city center, although it was very quiet as it was Veterans day, which made it clear the economy is mainly driven by government.
Per plan, after warming up a bit, we sauntered down to the main border bridge pedestrian crossing. Downtown El Paso transforms in just a few blocks from a midwest-style city capitol to a latin amercian-esque market square as you approach the border.
Despite the terrible reputation of Juarez, we felt very safe and welcome in our whole 20 minutes in Mexico. Things are probably very different in other parts of Juarez, but the border zone was clean, pleasant, and well taken care of. Main issue was the fumes and perceived stress of the drivers sitting in traffic to cross.
Our international foray complete, we jammed back across the bridge, changed, and caught an uber to the airport for our flight home.