I am truly thankful when the tire holds air. I pick up a couple of burritos on my way out of town. It’s cold and windy again, but that patch of clear sky is still up north. I go for it. The terrain is much flatter today, with very little variation. Dirt, rock, cactus, brush.
Pecos is moribund. The sign says the population is 12,300, but it looks like there are about 1,000 people left. Lots of rundown buildings. When I ask for directions to the library at the Chamber of Commerce, they send me to a boarded-up, graffiti-covered brick building. I decide to grab a bite and get out. I eat a burrito in a convenience store, standing around looking at magazine covers to stay warm.
The terrain doesn’t change. The only new sights are history markers which tell about nearby trails, dams, or town sites. At one a grey-haired woman pulls up in her car to find out what I’m up to. She owns a ranch nearby and has been running it for 60 years. It’s 140 sections – ranches have to be big around here, she says. The only other business is oil. She’s worries that none of her sons will want to run the place. She’s tough, but how much longer can she manage a job that big, I wonder? Then she turns motherly, wanting to make sure I’m prepared for a cold night. She’s not quite satisfied with my answers, but leaves me to my fate and heads back to her spread.
When I reach the New Mexico border, the grass comes back and takes over. Now it spreads away in great soft fields. I find a spacious, sheltered aqueduct beneath the road and set up for the night there. The sky is still the same, clear to the north, cloudy to the south. I hear a distant drum, like a ceremony is happening somewhere out there.