Taylor Burdge has embarked on the trip of her young lifetime. • The 2012 Tampa Prep graduate, whom the Tampa Bay Times profiled in May, started her cross-country journey by bike in June, pedaling to help raise awareness of affordable housing with a nonprofit called Bike and Build. • Burdge and 32 other 18- to 25-year-olds left from Portland, Maine, en route to Santa Barbara, Calif. The trip will take 75 days and cover nearly 4,000 miles. • The group stops every fourth day or so to assist in building affordable houses in various communities across the nation. • When Times correspondent Brandon Wright caught up with Burdge this week, she was traversing New Mexico and provided this update.
Destination: Roswell, N.M.
Terrain: flat with some gradual climbs
Temperature: extreme heat (110 degrees)
Wake up: 4 a.m.
Vast nothingness is the best way to describe our ride from Portales, N.M, to Roswell, N.M. Minus a small town of 120 people, there was absolutely nothing — not even a house — for the 97-mile stretch. After an uneventful first 20 miles, we stopped in that small town 20 miles in for some coffee.
We talked to the Eleda, N.M., law enforcement officers about what it's like growing up in a town with only 120 people in it, and that's a 25-mile drive to the nearest grocery store.
I learned that in Eleda, everyone leaves their car keys in their car so that a neighbor could borrow their car if needed. Quite different from Tampa!
We also were informed that Eleda would be our last stop for water for the next 80 miles. After making sure our water bottles and CamelBaks were filled to the rim, we hit the road. The lack of trees, hills and buildings makes it especially brutal when there is a headwind, and the next few miles were spent at a crawl as we pushed ourselves forward along the New Mexico plateaus.
Fortunately, the headwind did not last too long and before we knew it, we were cruising at our normal 18 to 20 mph pace once again. Cacti, barbwire fencing, and burnt-orange clay was about all their was to look for the next few hours and it quickly became boring.
But just when we almost had enough and were in need of some change, the terrain became much rockier and hillier, and steep clay cliffs started to arise. From here on out, the ride was breathtaking. The contrast of the bright-green shrubs against the burnt-orange clay all along the steep, rocky cliffs proved why New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment.
As the day wore on though, it got hotter and hotter, to the point where my phone could no longer work because it had overheated. No trees means no shade and after spending the past five hours baking in the sun, we really needed to cool down.
We found just what we needed after 75 miles: a small sliver of water in a dried-up creek hidden under the highway bridge. No normal person would have ever dared to touch the water, but desperate times call for desperate measures and we hopped the fallen down barbwire fence and waded in.
Strangely, it was salt water and salt deposits lined the banks of the river. We dunked our heads in and cooled off in our own secret oasis. The next 25 miles were much easier and we arrived into Roswell at 4 p.m.
For those who do not know, Roswell is famous for its UFO sightings back in the 1940s. The town of 50,000 people has completely franchised off of it, and the entire town is decorated with little green aliens and UFOs. After stopping for some "alien ice" (Italian ice) and Starbucks in town (the first Starbucks in weeks), we headed to our hosts, the First United Methodist Church to shower up before dinner.
All in all, it was another good day on the road.