October 18, 2016 - Linda Baldwin is Adventure Cycling's Assistant Tours Director.
When you start thinking of doing your own BIG ride, may I put in a plug for Adventure Cycling’s Southern Tier route? This ride has such an amazing array of culture and landscapes and luckily, I've had the pleasure of leading multiple tours on many sections of this route.
Traveling west to east, the climb out of San Diego opens into desert beauty. And about 75 miles east of San Diego, you’ll find a funky hot springs across the street from the Mexican border called Jacumba Spa. Waking up here to a snowstorm, then descending 4000 feet to below sea level, put into perspective the immense variety of experiences we were to encounter.
New Mexico’s Emory Pass, at 8,228 ft., is the highest point along the route. A wonderful reward for this climb is the Black Range Lodge in Kingston, NM, population 20, my favorite place on this route. Our host Kathryn treated us to an old-lodge comfort with couches everywhere, no TV or cell service, a pool table, a wood-fired hot tub, chicken coops, great organic food, and a straw bale house.
I couldn’t really do anything but “be” here. It reminded me that time becomes less important in the world of epic bike travel. The soap operas of the outer world dissolve and I find I know what I need to know, and the rest of the chatter of life, just drops away.
Texas: a third of the mileage! Big state, big climbs, big fields of flowers, big food, and big-hearted people. Texas starts with lots of scrub, high winds, little Internet, cell, or for that matter, towns. One motel boasted a snake museum and another, Texas shaped waffles, of course. Days are long and remote, so this is where I noticed the every-day fun you have to look for, like ... the abundant rich history, spotting stars at the McDonald Observatory, and spying a family of javelinas. Weeks of “are we still in Texas?” dissolve into the spectacular hill country. And at the right time of year, it becomes Lady Bird Johnson’s inspiration as a landscape full of flowers!
Landing in the deep south really set a new tone in the landscape, culture, food, and music with Zydeco, grouper, plantations, gumbo, beaches, deltas, and alligators. Dauphin Island, Alabama is another wonderful respite. And Skinner’s Seafood has ice-filled bins full of shrimp caught that morning. They’ll steam it on the spot so you can dive in with lemon, butter, and wedges of potato.
After a ferry ride on the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll only have one more state to go: Florida. And by now, you’re a well-seasoned bike traveler. It’s time to relish the changes you’ve seen as the road winds down to the Atlantic. Besides accomplishing over 3,000 miles from coast to coast, there is total immersion into the diversity and fabric of this country that can change your life. Mark Twain nailed it:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Photos 1,2,3 & 5 by Linda Baldwin | Photo 4 by Rita Rowe